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´╗┐Title: Beulah
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 "Beulah" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BEULAH

BY

AUGUSTA J. EVANS

Author of "Inez," "St. Elmo," "Infelice," "At the Mercy of
Tiberius," "Vashti," etc.



    "With that gloriole
     Of ebon hair, on calmed brows."



            TO MY AUNT
        MRS. SEABORN JONES
            OF GEORGIA
        I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
 AS A FEEBLE TRIBUTE OF AFFECTION
           AND GRATITUDE



BEULAH

CHAPTER I.


A January sun had passed the zenith, and the slanting rays flamed
over the window panes of a large brick building, bearing on its
front in golden letters the inscription "Orphan Asylum." The
structure was commodious, and surrounded by wide galleries, while
the situation offered a silent tribute to the discretion and good
sense of the board of managers who selected the suburbs instead of
the more densely populated portion of the city. The whitewashed
palings inclosed, as a front yard or lawn, rather more than an acre
of ground, sown in grass and studded with trees, among which the
shelled walks meandered gracefully. A long avenue of elms and
poplars extended from the gate to the principal entrance, and
imparted to the Asylum an imposing and venerable aspect. There was
very little shrubbery, but here and there orange boughs bent beneath
their load of golden fruitage, while the glossy foliage, stirred by
the wind, trembled and glistened in the sunshine. Beyond the
inclosure stretched the common, dotted with occasional clumps of
pine and leafless oaks, through which glimpses of the city might be
had. Building and grounds wore a quiet, peaceful, inviting look,
singularly appropriate for the purpose designated by the inscription
"Orphan Asylum," a haven for the desolate and miserable. The front
door was closed, but upon the broad granite steps, where the
sunlight lay warm and tempting, sat a trio of the inmates. In the
foreground was a slight fairy form, "a wee winsome thing," with
coral lips, and large, soft blue eyes, set in a frame of short,
clustering golden curls. She looked about six years old, and was
clad, like her companions, in canary-colored flannel dress and blue-
check apron. Lillian was the pet of the asylum, and now her rosy
cheek rested upon her tiny white palm, as though she wearied of the
picture-book which lay at her feet. The figure beside her was one
whose marvelous beauty riveted the gaze of all who chanced to see
her. The child could have been but a few months older than Lillian,
yet the brilliant black eyes, the peculiar curve of the dimpled
mouth, and long, dark ringlets, gave to the oval face a maturer and
more piquant loveliness. The cast of Claudia's countenance bespoke
her foreign parentage, and told of the warm, fierce Italian blood
that glowed in her cheeks. There was fascinating grace in every
movement, even in the easy indolence of her position, as she bent on
one knee to curl Lillian's locks over her finger. On the upper step,
in the rear of these two, sat a girl whose age could not have been
very accurately guessed from her countenance, and whose features
contrasted strangely with those of her companions. At a first casual
glance, one thought her rather homely, nay, decidedly ugly; yet, to
the curious physiognomist, this face presented greater attractions
than either of the others. Reader, I here paint you the portrait of
that quiet little figure whose history is contained in the following
pages. A pair of large gray eyes set beneath an overhanging
forehead, a boldly projecting forehead, broad and smooth; a rather
large but finely cut mouth, an irreproachable nose, of the order
furthest removed from aquiline, and heavy black eyebrows, which,
instead of arching, stretched straight across and nearly met. There
was not a vestige of color in her cheeks; face, neck, and hands wore
a sickly pallor, and a mass of rippling, jetty hair, drawn smoothly
over the temples, rendered this marble-like whiteness more apparent.
Unlike the younger children, Beulah was busily sewing upon what
seemed the counterpart of their aprons; and the sad expression of
the countenance, the lips firmly compressed, as if to prevent the
utterance of complaint, showed that she had become acquainted with
cares and sorrows, of which they were yet happily ignorant. Her eyes
were bent down on her work, and the long, black lashes nearly
touched her cold cheeks.

"Sister Beulah, ought Claudy to say that?" cried Lillian, turning
round and laying her hand upon the piece of sewing.

"Say what, Lilly? I was not listening to you."

"She said she hoped that largest robin redbreast would get drunk and
tumble down. He would be sure to bump some of his pretty bright
feathers out, if he rolled over the shells two or three times,"
answered Lilly, pointing to a China tree near, where a flock of
robins were eagerly chirping over the feast of berries.

"Why, Claudy! how can you wish the poor little fellow such bad
luck?" The dark, thoughtful eyes, full of deep meaning, rested on
Claudia's radiant face.

"Oh! you need not think I am a bear, or a hawk, ready to swallow the
darling little beauty alive! I would not have him lose a feather for
the world; but I should like the fun of seeing him stagger and wheel
over and over, and tumble off the limb, so that I might run and
catch him in my apron. Do you think I would give him to our matron
to make a pie? No, you might take off my fingers first!" And the
little elf snapped them emphatically in Beulah's face.

"Make a pie of robies, indeed! I would starve before I would eat a
piece of it," chimed in Lilly, with childish horror at the thought.

Claudia laughed with mingled mischief and chagrin. "You say you
would not eat a bit of roby-pie to save your life? Well, you did it
last week, anyhow."

"Oh, Claudy, I didn't!"

"Oh, but you did! Don't you remember Susan picked up a bird last
week that fell out of this very tree, and gave it to our matron?
Well, didn't we have bird-pie for dinner?"

"Yes, but one poor little fellow would not make a pie."

"They had some birds already that came from the market, and I heard
Mrs. Williams tell Susan to put it in with the others. So, you see,
you did eat roby-pie, and I didn't, for I knew what was in it. I saw
its head wrung off!"

"Well, I hope I did not get any of roby. I won't eat any more pie
till they have all gone," was Lilly's consolatory reflection.
Chancing to glance toward the gate, she exclaimed:

"There is a carriage."

"What is to-day? Let me see--Wednesday. Yes, this is the evening for
the ladies to meet here. Lil, is my face right clean? because that
red-headed Miss Dorothy always takes particular pains to look at it.
She rubbed her pocket-handkerchief over it the other day. I do hate
her, don't you?" cried Claudia, springing up and buttoning the band
of her apron sleeve, which had become unfastened.

"Why, Claudy, I am astonished to hear you talk so. Miss Dorothy
helps to buy food and clothes for us, and you ought to be ashamed to
speak of her as you do." As she delivered this reprimand Beulah
snatched up a small volume and hid it in her work-basket.

"I don't believe she gives us much. I do hate her, and I can't help
it; she is so ugly, and cross, and vinegar-faced. I should not like
her to look at my mug of milk. You don't love her either, any more
than I do, only you won't say anything about her. But kiss me, and I
promise I will be good, and not make faces at her in my apron."
Beulah stooped down and warmly kissed the suppliant, then took her
little sister's hand and led her into the house, just as the
carriage reached the door. The children presented a pleasant
spectacle as they entered the long dining room, and ranged
themselves for inspection. Twenty-eight heirs of orphanage, varying
in years, from one crawling infant to well-nigh grown girls, all
neatly clad, and with smiling, contented faces, if we except one
grave countenance, which might have been remarked by the close
observer.

The weekly visiting committee consisted of four of the lady
managers, but to-day the number was swelled to six. A glance at the
inspectors sufficed to inform Beulah that something of more than
ordinary interest had convened them on the present occasion, and she
was passing on to her accustomed place when her eyes fell upon a
familiar face, partially concealed by a straw bonnet. It was her
Sabbath-school teacher. A sudden, glad light flashed over the girl's
countenance, and the pale lips disclosed a set of faultlessly
beautiful teeth, as she smiled and hastened to her friend.

"How do you do, Mrs. Mason? I am so glad to see you!"

"Thank you, Beulah; I have been promising myself this pleasure a
great while. I saw Eugene this morning, and told him I was coming
out. He sent you a book and a message. Here is the book. You are to
mark the passages you like particularly, and study them well until
he comes. When did you see him last?"

Mrs. Mason put the volume in her hand as she spoke.

"It has been more than a week since he was here, and I was afraid he
was sick. He is very kind and good to remember the book he promised
me, and I thank you very much, Mrs. Mason, for bringing it." The
face was radiant with newborn joy, but it all died out when Miss
Dorothea White (little Claudia's particular aversion) fixed her pale
blue eyes upon her, and asked, in a sharp, discontented tone:

"What ails that girl, Mrs. Williams? She does not work enough or she
would have some blood in her cheeks. Has she been sick?"

"No, madam, she has not been sick exactly; but somehow she never
looks strong and hearty like the others. She works well enough.
There is not a better or more industrious girl in the asylum; but I
rather think she studies too much. She will sit up and read of
nights, when the others are all sound asleep; and very often, when
Kate and I put out the hall lamp, we find her with her book alone in
the cold. I can't get my consent to forbid her reading, especially
as it never interferes with her regular work, and she is so fond of
it." As the kind-hearted matron uttered these words she glanced at
the child and sighed involuntarily. "You are too indulgent, Mrs.
Williams; we cannot afford to feed and clothe girls of her age, to
wear themselves out reading trash all night. We are very much in
arrears at best, and I think some plan should be adopted to make
these large girls, who have been on hand so long, more useful. What
do you say, ladies?" Miss Dorothea looked around for some
encouragement and support in her move.

"Well, for my part, Miss White, I think that child is not strong
enough to do much hard work; she always has looked delicate and
pale," said Mrs. Taylor, an amiable-looking woman, who had taken one
of the youngest orphans on her knee.

"My dear friend, that is the very reason. She does not exercise
sufficiently to make her robust. Just look at her face and hands, as
bloodless as a turnip."

"Beulah, do ask her to give you some of her beautiful color; she
looks exactly like a cake of tallow, with two glass beads in the
middle--"

"Hush!" and Beulah's hand was pressed firmly over Claudia's crimson
lips, lest the whisper of the indignant little brunette should reach
ears for which it was not intended.

As no one essayed to answer Miss White, the matron ventured to
suggest a darling scheme of her own.

"I have always hoped the managers would conclude to educate her for
a teacher. She is so studious, I know she would learn very rapidly."

"My dear madam, you do not in the least understand what you are
talking about. It would require at least five years' careful
training to fit her to teach, and our finances do not admit of any
such expenditure. As the best thing for her, I should move to bind
her out to a mantua-maker or milliner, but she could not stand the
confinement. She would go off with consumption in less than a year.
There is the trouble with these delicate children."

"How is the babe that was brought here last week?" asked Mrs.
Taylor.

"Oh, he is doing beautifully. Bring him round the table, Susan," and
the rosy, smiling infant was handed about for closer inspection. A
few general inquiries followed, and then Beulah was not surprised to
hear the order given for the children to retire, as the managers had
some especial business with their matron. The orphan band defiled
into the hall, and dispersed to their various occupations, but
Beulah approached the matron, and whispered something, to which the
reply was:

"No; if you have finished that other apron, you shall sew no more
to-day. You can pump a fresh bucket of water, and then run out into
the yard for some air."

She performed the duty assigned to her, and then hastened to the
dormitory, whither Lillian and Claudia had preceded her. The latter
was standing on a chair, mimicking Miss Dorothea, and haranguing her
sole auditor, in a nasal twang, which she contrived to force from
her beautiful, curling lips. At sight of Beulah she sprang toward
her, exclaiming:

"You shall be a teacher if you want to, shan't you, Beulah?"

"I am afraid not, Claudy. But don't say any more about her; she is
not as kind as our dear matron, or some of the managers, but she
thinks she is right. Remember, she made these pretty blue curtains
round your and Lilly's bed."

"I don't care if she did. All the ladies were making them, and she
did no more than the rest. Never mind; I shall be a young lady some
of these days,--our matron says I will be beautiful enough to marry
the President,--and then I will see whether Miss Dorothy Red-head
comes meddling and bothering you any more." The brilliant eyes
dilated with pleasure at the thought of the protection which the
future lady-President would afford her protegee.

Beulah smiled, and asked almost gayly:

"Claudy, how much will you pay me a month, to dress you and keep
your hair in order, when you get into the White House at
Washington?"

"Oh, you dear darling! you shall have everything you want, and do
nothing but read." The impulsive child threw her arms around
Beulah's neck, and kissed her repeatedly, while the latter bent down
over her basket.

"Lilly, here are some chinquapins for you and Olaudy. I am going out
into the yard, and you may both go and play hull-gull."

In the debating room of the visiting committee Miss White again had
the floor. She was no less important a personage than vice president
of the board of managers, and felt authorized to investigate closely
and redress all grievances.

"Who did you say sent that book here, Mrs. Mason?"

"Eugene Rutland, who was once a member of Mrs. Williams' orphan
charge in this asylum. Mr. Graham adopted him, and he is now known
as Eugene Graham. He is very much attached to Beulah, though I
believe they are not at all related."

"He left the asylum before I entered the board. What sort of boy is
he? I have seen him several times, and do not particularly fancy
him."

"Oh, madam, he is a noble boy! It was a great trial to me to part
with him three years ago. He is much older than Beulah, and loves
her as well as if she were his sister," said the matron, more
hastily than was her custom, when answering any of the managers.

"I suppose he has put this notion of being a teacher into her head.
Well, she must get it out, that is all. I know of an excellent
situation, where a lady is willing to pay six dollars a month for a
girl of her age to attend to an infant, and I think we must secure
it for her."

"Oh, Miss White! she is not able to carry a heavy child always in
her arms," expostulated Mrs. Williams.

"Yes, she is. I will venture to say she looks all the better for it
at the month's end." The last sentence, fraught with interest to
herself, fell upon Beulah's ear, as she passed through the hall, and
an unerring intuition told her "You are the one." She put her hands
over her ears to shut out Miss Dorothea's sharp tones, and hurried
away, with a dim foreboding of coming evil, which pressed heavily
upon her young heart.



CHAPTER II.


The following day, in obedience to the proclamation of the mayor of
the city, was celebrated as a season of special thanksgiving, and
the inmates of the asylum were taken to church to morning service.
After an early dinner, the matron gave them permission to amuse
themselves the remainder of the day as their various inclinations
prompted. There was an immediate dispersion of the assemblage, and
only Beulah lingered beside the matron's chair.

"Mrs. Williams, may I take Lilly with me, and go out into the woods
at the back of the asylum?"

"I want you at home this evening; but I dislike very much to refuse
you."

"Oh, never mind! if you wish me to do anything," answered the girl
cheerfully.

Tears rolled over the matron's face, and, hastily averting her head,
she wiped them away with the corner of her apron.

"Can I do anything to help you? What is the matter?"

"Never mind, Beulah; do you get your bonnet and go to the edge of
the woods--not too far, remember; and if I must have you, why I will
send for you."

"I would rather not go if it will be any trouble."

"No, dear; it's no trouble; I want you to go," answered the matron,
turning hastily away. Beulah felt very strongly inclined to follow,
and inquire what was in store for her; but the weight on her heart
pressed more heavily, and, murmuring to herself, "It will come time
enough, time enough," she passed on.

"May I come with you and Lilly?" entreated little Claudia, running
down the walk at full speed, and putting her curly head through the
palings to make the request.

"Yes, come on. You and Lily can pick up some nice smooth burrs to
make baskets of. But where is your bonnet?" "I forgot it." She ran
up, almost out of breath, and seized Beulah's hand.

"You forgot it, indeed! You little witch, you will burn as black as
a gypsy!"

"I don't care if I do. I hate bonnets."

"Take care, Claudy; the President won't have you all freckled and
tanned."

"Won't he?" queried the child, with a saucy sparkle in her black
eyes.

"That he won't. Here, tie on my hood, and the next time you come
running after me bareheaded, I will make you go back; do you hear?"

"Yes, I hear. I wonder why Miss Dorothy don't bleach off her
freckles; she looks like a--"

"Hush about her, and run on ahead."

"Do, pray, let me get my breath first. Which way are we going?"

"To the piney woods yonder," cried Lilly, clapping her hands in
childish glee; "won't we have fun, rolling and sliding on the
straw?" The two little ones walked on in advance.

The path along which their feet pattered so carelessly led to a
hollow or ravine, and the ground on the opposite side rose into
small hillocks, thickly wooded with pines. Beulah sat down upon a
mound of moss and leaves; while Claudia and Lillian, throwing off
their hoods, commenced the glorious game of sliding. The pine straw
presented an almost glassy surface, and, starting from the top of a
hillock, they slid down, often stumbling and rolling together to the
bottom. Many a peal of laughter rang out, and echoed far back in the
forest, and two blackbirds could not have kept up a more continuous
chatter. Apart from all this sat Beulah; she had remembered the
matron's words, and stopped just at the verge of the woods, whence
she could see the white palings of the asylum. Above her the winter
breeze moaned and roared in the pine tops; it was the sad but dearly
loved forest music that she so often stole out to listen to. Every
breath which sighed through the emerald boughs seemed to sweep a
sympathetic chord in her soul, and she raised her arms toward the
trees as though she longed to clasp the mighty musical box of nature
to her heart. The far-off blue of a cloudless sky looked in upon
her, like a watchful guardian; the sunlight fell slantingly, now
mellowing the brown leaves and knotted trunks, and now seeming to
shun the darker spots and recesses where shadows lurked. For a time
the girl forgot all but the quiet and majestic beauty of the scene.
She loved nature as only those can whose sources of pleasure have
been sadly curtailed, and her heart went out, so to speak, after
birds, and trees, and flowers, sunshine and stars, and the voices of
sweeping winds. An open volume lay on her lap; it was Longfellow's
Poems, the book Eugene had sent her, and leaves were turned down at
"Excelsior" and the "Psalm of Life." The changing countenance
indexed very accurately the emotions which were excited by this
communion with Nature. There was an uplifted look, a brave, glad,
hopeful light in the gray eyes, generally so troubled in their
expression. A sacred song rose on the evening air, a solemn but
beautiful hymn. She sang the words of the great strength-giving
poet, the "Psalm of Life":

    "Tell me not in mournful numbers,
      Life is but an empty dream;
      For the soul is dead that slumbers,
      And things are not what they seem."

It was wonderful what power and sweetness there was in her voice;
burst after burst of rich melody fell from her trembling lips. Her
soul echoed the sentiments of the immortal bard, and she repeated
again and again the fifth verse:

    "In the world's broad field of battle,
     In the bivouac of life;
     Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
     Be a hero in the strife."

Intuitively she seemed to feel that an hour of great trial was at
hand, and this was a girding for the combat. With the shield of a
warm, hopeful heart, and the sword of a strong, unfaltering will,
she awaited the shock; but as she concluded her song the head bowed
itself upon her arms, the shadow of the unknown, lowering future had
fallen upon her face, and only the Great Shepherd knew what passed
the pale lips of the young orphan. She was startled by the sharp
bark of a dog, and, looking up, saw a gentleman leaning against a
neighboring tree, and regarding her very earnestly. He came forward
as she perceived him, and said with a pleasant smile:

"You need not be afraid of my dog. Like his master, he would not
disturb you till you finished your song. Down, Carlo; be quiet, sir.
My little friend, tell me who taught you to sing."

She had hastily risen, and a slight glow tinged her cheek at his
question. Though naturally reserved and timid, there was a self-
possession about her unusual in children of her age, and she
answered in a low voice, "I have never had a teacher, sir; but I
listen to the choir on Sabbath, and sing our Sunday-school hymns at
church."

"Do you know who wrote those words you sang just now? I was not
aware they had been set to music."

"I found them in this book yesterday, and liked them so much that I
tried to sing them by one of our hymn tunes." She held up the volume
as she spoke.

He glanced at the title, and then looked curiously at her. Beulah
chanced just then to turn toward the asylum, and saw one of the
oldest girls running across the common. The shadow on her face
deepened, and she looked around for Claudia and Lillian. They had
tired of sliding, and were busily engaged picking up pine burrs at
some little distance in the rear.

"Come, Claudy--Lilly--our matron has sent for us; come, make haste."

"Do you belong to the asylum?" asked the gentleman, shaking the
ashes from his cigar.

"Yes, sir," answered she, and, as the children came up, she bowed
and turned homeward.

"Wait a moment. Those are not your sisters, certainly?" His eyes
rested with unfeigned admiration on their beautiful faces.

"This one is, sir; that is not." As she spoke she laid her hand on
Lillian's head. Claudia looked shyly at the stranger, and then,
seizing Beulah's dress, exclaimed:

"Oh, Beulah, don't let us go just yet! I left such a nice, splendid
pile of burrs!"

"Yes, we must go; yonder comes Katy for us. Good-evening, sir."

"Good-evening, my little friend. Some of these days I shall come to
the asylum to see you all, and have you sing that song again."

She made no reply, but, catching her sister's hand, walked rapidly
homeward. Katy delivered Mrs. Williams' message, and assured Beulah
she must make haste, for Miss Dorothy was displeased that the
children were absent.

"What! is she there again, the hateful--"

Beulah's hand was over Claudia's mouth, and prevented the remainder
of the sentence. That short walk was painful, and conflicting hopes
and fears chased each other in the sister's heart, as she tightened
her hold on Lilly's hand.

"Oh, what a beautiful carriage!" cried Claudia, as they approached
the door, and descried an elegant carriage, glittering with silver
mountings, and drawn by a pair of spirited black horses.

"Yes, that it is, and there is a lady and gentleman here who must
be very rich, judging from their looks. They brought Miss White."

"What do they want, Katy?" asked Claudia.

"I don't know for certain, though I have my own thoughts," answered
the girl, with a knowing laugh that grated on Beulah's ears.

"Here, Beulah, bring them to the dormitory," said Mrs. Williams,
meeting them at the door and hurrying them upstairs. She hastily
washed Claudia's face and recurled her hair, while the same offices
were performed for Lillian by her sister.

"Don't rub my hand so hard; you hurt," cried out Claudia sharply, as
in perfect silence, and with an anxious countenance, the kind matron
dressed her.

"I only want to get it white and clean, beauty," was the
conciliatory reply.

"Well, I tell you that won't come off, because it's turpentine,"
retorted the self-willed little elf.

"Come, Beulah; bring Lilly along. Miss White is out of patience."

"What does all this mean?" said Beulah, taking her sister's hand.

"Don't ask me, poor child." As she spoke the good woman ushered the
trio into the reception room. None of the other children were
present. Beulah noted this circumstance, and, drawing a long breath,
looked around.

Miss White was eagerly talking to a richly dressed and very pretty
woman, while a gentleman stood beside them, impatiently twirling his
seal and watch-key.

All looked up, and Miss White exclaimed:

"Here they are! Now my dear Mrs. Grayson, I rather think you can be
suited. Come here, little ones." She drew Claudia to her side, while
Lilly clung closer to her sister.

"Oh, what beauties! Only look at them, Alfred!" Mrs. Grayson glanced
eagerly from one to the other.

"Very pretty children, indeed, my dear. Extremely pretty;
particularly the black-eyed one," answered her husband, with far
less ecstasy.

"I don't know; I believe I admire the golden-haired one most. She is
a perfect fairy. Come here, my love, and let me talk to you,"
continued she, addressing Lilly. The child clasped her sister's
fingers more firmly, and did not advance an inch.

"Do not hold her, Beulah. Come to the lady, Lillian," said Miss
White. As Beulah gently disengaged her hand, she felt as if the
anchor of hope had been torn from her hold; but, stooping down, she
whispered:

"Go to the lady, Lilly darling; I will not leave you."

Thus encouraged, the little figure moved slowly forward, and paused
in front of the stranger. Mrs. Grayson took her small, white hands
tenderly, and, pressing a warm kiss on her lips, said in a kind,
winning tone:

"What is your name, my dear?"

"Lillian, ma'am; but sister calls me Lilly."

"Who is 'sister'--little Claudia here?"

"Oh, no; sister Beulah." And the soft blue eyes turned lovingly
toward that gentle sister.

"Good Heavens, Alfred; how totally unlike! This is one of the most
beautiful children I have ever seen, and that girl yonder is ugly,"
said the lady, in an undertone to her husband, who was talking to
Claudia. It was said in a low voice, but Beulah heard every
syllable, and a glow of shame for an instant bathed her brow.
Claudia heard it too, and, springing from Mr. Grayson's knee, she
exclaimed angrily:

"She isn't ugly, any such thing; she is the smartest girl in the
asylum, and I love her better than anybody in the world."

"No, Beulah is not pretty, but she is good, and that is far better,"
said the matron, laying her trembling hand on Beulah's shoulder. A
bitter smile curled the girl's lips, but she did not move her eyes
from Lillian's face.

"Fanny, if you select that plain-spoken little one you will have
some temper to curb," suggested Mr. Grayson, somewhat amused by
Claudia's burst of indignation.

"Oh, my dear husband, I must have them both. Only fancy how lovely
they will be, dressed exactly alike. My little Lilly, and you
Claudia, will you come and be my daughters? I shall love you very
much, and that gentleman will be your papa. He is very kind. You
shall have big wax dolls, as high as your heads, and doll-houses,
and tea-sets, and beautiful blue and pink silk dresses, and every
evening I shall take you out to ride in my carriage. Each of you
shall have a white hat, with long, curling feathers. Will you come
and live with me, and let me be your mamma?"

Beulah's face assumed an ashen hue, as she listened to these coaxing
words. She had not thought of separation; the evil had never
presented itself in this form, and, staggering forward, she clutched
the matron's dress, saying hoarsely:

"Oh, don't separate us! Don't let them take Lilly from me! I will do
anything on earth, I will work my hands off. Oh, do anything, but
please, oh, please, don't give Lilly up. My own darling Lilly."

Claudia here interrupted: "I should like to go well enough, if you
will take Beulah too. Lil, are you going?"

"No, no." Lillian broke away from the stranger's clasping arm and
rushed toward her sister; but Miss White sat between them, and,
catching the child, she firmly, though very gently, held her back.
Lilly was very much afraid of her, and, bursting into tears, she
cried imploringly:

"Oh, sister! take me, take me!"

Beulah sprang to her side, and said, almost fiercely: "Give her to
me; she is mine, and you have no right to part us." She extended her
arms toward the little form struggling to reach her.

"The managers have decided that it is for the child's good that Mrs.
Grayson should adopt her. We dislike very much to separate sisters,
but it cannot be avoided; whole families can't be adopted by one
person, and you must not interfere. She will soon be perfectly
satisfied away from you, and instead of encouraging her to be
rebellious, you ought to coax her to behave and go peaceably,"
replied Miss White, still keeping Beulah at arm's length.

"You let go Lilly, you hateful, ugly, old thing you! She shan't go
if she don't want to? She does belong to Beulah," cried Claudia,
striding up and laying her hand on Lilly's arm.

"You spoiled, insolent little wretch!" muttered Miss White,
crimsoning to the roots of her fiery hair.

"I am afraid they will not consent to go. Fanny, suppose you take
Claudia; the other seems too reluctant," said Mr. Grayson, looking
at his watch.

"But I do so want that little blue-eyed angel. Cannot the matron
influence her?" She turned to her as she spoke. Thus appealed to,
Mrs. Williams took the child in her arms, and caressed her tenderly.

"My dear little Lilly, you must not cry and struggle so. Why will
you not go with this kind lady? She will love you very much."

"Oh, I don't want to!" sobbed she, pressing her wet cheeks against
the matron's shoulder.

"But, Lilly love, you shall have everything you want. Kiss me, like
a sweet girl, and say you will go to my beautiful home. I will give
you a cage full of the prettiest canary birds you ever looked at.
Don't you love to ride? My carriage is waiting at the door. You and
Claudia will have such a nice time." Mrs. Grayson knelt beside her,
and kissed her tenderly; still she clung closer to the matron.

Beulah had covered her face with her hands, and stood trembling like
a weed bowed before the rushing gale. She knew that neither
expostulation nor entreaty would avail now, and she resolved to bear
with fortitude what she could not avert. Lifting her head, she said
slowly:

"If I must give up my sister, let me do so as quietly as possible.
Give her to me; then perhaps she will go more willingly. Do not
force her away! Oh, do not force her!"

As she uttered these words her lips were white and cold, and the
agonized expression of her face made Mrs. Grayson shiver.

"Lilly, my darling! My own precious darling!" She bent over her
sister, and the little arms clasped her neck tightly, as she lifted
and bore her back to the dormitory.

"You may get their clothes ready, Mrs. Williams. Rest assured, my
dear Mrs. Grayson, they will go now without any further difficulty.
Of course we dislike to separate sisters, but it can't be helped
sometimes. If you like, I will show you over the asylum while the
children are prepared." Miss White led the way to the schoolroom.

"I am very dubious about that little one. Fanny, how will you ever
manage two such dispositions, one all tears and the other all fire
and tow?" said Mr. Grayson.

"A truce to your fears, Alfred. We shall get on charmingly after the
first few days. How proud I shall be with such jewels!" Beulah sat
down on the edge of the blue-curtained bed, and drew her idol close
to her heart. She kissed the beautiful face, and smoothed the golden
curls she had so long and so lovingly arranged, and, as the child
returned her kisses, she felt as if rude hands were tearing her
heart-strings loose. But she knew she must give her up. There was no
effort within her power which could avail to keep her treasure, and
that brave spirit nerved itself. Not a tear dimmed her eye, not a
sob broke from her colorless lips.

"Lilly, my own little sister, you must not cry any more. Let me wash
your face; you will make your head ache if you cry so."

"Oh, Beulah! I don't want to go away from you."

"My darling, I know you don't; but you will have a great many things
to make you happy, and I shall come to see you as often as I can. I
can't bear to have you go, either; but I cannot help it, and I want
you to go quietly, and be so good that the lady will love you."

"But to-night, when I go to bed, you will not be there to hear me
say my prayers. Oh, sister! why can't you go?"

"They do not want me, my dear Lilly; but you can kneel down and say
your prayers, and God will hear you just as well as if you were here
with me, and I will ask Him to love you all the more, and take care
of you--"

Here a little arm stole round poor Beulah's neck, and Claudia
whispered with a sob:

"Will you ask Him to love me too?"

"Yes, Claudy; I will."

"We will try to be good. Oh, Beulah--I love you so much, so very
much!" The affectionate child pressed her lips repeatedly to
Beulah's bloodless cheek.

"Claudy, if you love me, you must be kind to my little Lilly. When
you see that she is sad, and crying for me, you must coax her to be
as contented as possible, and always speak gently to her. Will you
do this for Beulah?"

"Yes, that I will! I promise you I will, and, what is more, I will
fight for her! I boxed that spiteful Charley's ears the other day
for vexing her, and I will scratch anybody's eyes out that dares to
scold her. This very morning I pinched Maggie black and blue for
bothering her, and I tell you I shall not let anybody impose on
her." The tears dried in her brilliant eyes, and she clinched her
little fist with an exalted opinion of her protective powers.

"Claudy, I do not ask you to fight for her; I want you to love her.
Oh, love her! always be kind to her," murmured Beulah.

"I do love her better than anything in the world, don't I, Lilly
dear!" She softly kissed one of the child's hands.

At this moment the matron entered, with a large bundle neatly
wrapped. Her eyes were red, and there were traces of tears on her
cheek. Looking tenderly down upon the trio, she said very gently:

"Come, my pets; they will not wait any longer for you. I hope you
will try to be good, and love each other, and Beulah shall come to
see you." She took Claudia's hand and led her down the steps. Beulah
lifted her sister, and carried her in her arms, as she had done from
her birth, and at every step kissed her lips and brow.

Mr. and Mrs. Grayson were standing at the front door; they both
looked pleased, as Lilly had ceased crying, and the carriage door
was opened to admit them.

"Ah, my dears, now for a nice ride; Claudia, jump in," said Mr.
Grayson, extending his hand to assist her. She paused, kissed her
kind matron, and then approached Beulah. She could not bear to leave
her, and, as she threw her arms around her, sobbed out:

"Good-by, dear, good Beulah. I will take care of Lilly. Please love
me, and ask God for me too." She was lifted into the carriage with
tears streaming over her face.

Beulah drew near to Mrs. Grayson, and said in a low but imploring
tone:

"Oh, madam, love my sister, and always speak affectionately to her,
then she will be good and obedient. I may come to see her often, may
I not?"

"Certainly," replied the lady, in a tone which chilled poor Beulah's
heart. She swallowed a groan of agony, and, straining the loved one
to her bosom, pressed her lips to Lilly's.

"God bless my little sister, my darling, my all!" She put the child
in Mr. Grayson's extended arms, and only saw that her sister looked
back appealingly to her. Miss White came up and said something which
she did not hear, and, turning hastily away, she went up to the
dormitory, and seated herself on Lilly's vacant bed. The child knew
not how the hours passed; she sat with her face buried in her hands,
until the light of a candle flashed into the darkened chamber, and
the kind voice of the matron fell on her ear.

"Beulah, will you try to eat some supper? Do, dear."

"No, thank you, I don't want anything."

"Poor child, I would have saved you all this had it been in my
power; but, when once decided by the managers, you know I could not
interfere. They disliked to separate you and Lily, but thought that,
under the circumstances, it was the best arrangement they could
make. Beulah, I want to tell you something, if you will listen to
me." She seated herself on the edge of the bed, and took one of the
girl's hands between both hers.

"The managers think it is best that you should go out and take a
situation. I am sorry I am forced to give you up, very sorry, for
you have always been a good girl, and I love you dearly; but these
things cannot be avoided, and I hope all will turn out for the best.
There is a place engaged for you, and Miss White wishes you to go
to-morrow. I trust you will not have a hard time. You are to take
care of an infant, and they will give you six dollars a month
besides your board and clothes. Try to do your duty, child, and
perhaps something may happen which will enable you to turn teacher."

"Well, I will do the best I can. I do not mind work, but then Lilly-
-" Her head went down on her arms once more.

"Yes, dear, I know it is very hard for you to part with her; but
remember, it is for her good. Mr. Grayson is very wealthy, and of
course Lilly and Claudy will have--"

"And what is money to my--" Again she paused abruptly.

"Ah, child, you do not begin to know! Money is everything in this
world to some people, and more than the next to other poor souls.
Well, well, I hope it will prove for the best as far as you are
concerned. It is early yet, but maybe you had better go to bed, as
you are obliged to leave in the morning."

"I could not sleep."

"God will help you, dear child, if you try to do your duty. All of
us have sorrows, and if yours have begun early, they may not last
long. Poor little thing, I shall always remember you in my prayers."
She kissed her gently, and left her, hoping that solitude would
soothe her spirits. Miss White's words rang in the girl's ears like
a knell. "She will soon be perfectly satisfied away from you."

Would she? Could that idolized sister learn to do without her, and
love her new friends as fondly as the untiring one who had cradled
her in her arms for six long years? A foreboding dread hissed
continually, "Do you suppose the wealthy and fashionable Mrs.
Grayson, who lives in that elegant house on ---- street, will suffer
her adopted daughter to associate intimately with a hired nurse?"

Again the light streamed into the room. She buried her face deeper
in her apron.

"Beulah," said a troubled, anxious voice.

"Oh, Eugene!" She sprang up with a dry sob, and threw herself into
his arms.

"I know it all, dear Beulah; but come down to Mrs. Williams' room;
there is a bright fire there, and your hands are as cold as ice. You
will make yourself sick sitting here without even a shawl around
you." He led her downstairs to the room occupied by the matron, who
kindly took her work to the dining room, and left them to talk
unrestrainedly.

"Sit down in this rocking-chair and warm your hands."

He seated himself near her, and as the firelight glowed on the faces
of both, they contrasted strangely. One was classical and full of
youthful beauty, the other wan, haggard, and sorrow-stained. He
looked about sixteen, and promised to become a strikingly handsome
man, while the proportions of his polished brow indicated more than
ordinary intellectual endowments. He watched his companion
earnestly, sadly, and, leaning forward, took one of her hands.

"Beulah, I see from your face that you have not shed a single tear.
I wish you would not keep your sorrow so pent up in your heart. It
grieves me to see you look as you do now."

"Oh, I can't help it! If it were not for you I believe I should die,
I am so very miserable. Eugene, if you could have seen our Lilly
cling to me, even to the last moment. It seems to me my heart will
break." She sank her weary head on his shoulder.

"Yes, darling, I know you are suffering very much; but remember that
'all things work together for good to them that love God.' Perhaps
he sees it is best that you should give her up for a while, and if
so, will you not try to bear it cheerfully, instead of making
yourself sick with useless grief?" He gently smoothed the hair from
her brow as he spoke. She did not reply. He did not expect that she
would, and continued in the same kind tone:

"I am much more troubled about your taking this situation. If I had
known it earlier I would have endeavored to prevent it; but I
suppose it cannot be helped now, for a while at least."

"As soon as possible I am determined you shall go to school; and
remember, dear Beulah, I am just as much grieved at your sorrows as
you are. In a few years I shall have a home of my own, and you shall
be the first to come to it. Never mind these dark, stormy days. Do
you remember what our minister said in his sermon last Sunday? 'The
darkest hour is just before daybreak.' Already I begin to see the
'silver lining' of clouds that a few years, or even months ago,
seemed heavy and cheerless. I have heard a great deal about the ills
and trials of this world, but I think a brave, hopeful spirit will
do much toward remedying the evil. For my part, I look forward to
the time when you and I shall have a home of our own, and then Lilly
and Claudy can be with us. I was talking to Mrs. Mason about it
yesterday; she loves you very much. I dare say all will be right; so
cheer up, Beulah, and do look on the bright side."

"Eugene, you are the only bright side I have to look on. Sometimes I
think you will get tired of me, and if you ever do I shall want to
die. Oh, how could I bear to know you did not love me!" She raised
her head and looked earnestly at his noble face.

Eugene laughingly repeated her words.

"Get tired of you, indeed--not I, little sister."

"Oh, I forgot to thank you for your book. I like it better than
anything I ever read. Some parts are so beautiful--so very grand. I
keep it in my basket, and read every moment I can spare."

"I knew you would like it, particularly 'Excelsior.' Beulah, I have
written 'excelsior' on my banner, and I intend, like that noble
youth, to press forward over every obstacle, mounting at every step,
until I, too, stand on the highest pinnacle, and plant my banner
where its glorious motto shall float over the world. That poem stirs
my very soul like martial music, and I feel as if I should like to
see Mr. Longfellow, to tell him how I thank him for having written
it. I want you to mark the passages you like best; and, now I think
of it, here is a pencil I cut for you to-day."

He drew it from his pocket and put it into her hand, while his face
glowed with enthusiasm.

"Thank you, thank you." Grateful tears sprang to her eyes; tears
which acute suffering could not wring from her. He saw the gathering
drops, and said gayly:

"If that is the way you intend to thank me I shall bring you no more
pencils. But you look very pale, and ought to be asleep, for I have
no doubt to-morrow will be a trying day for you. Do exert yourself
to be brave, and bear it all for a little while; I know it will not
be very long, and I shall come and see you just as often as
possible."

He rose as he spoke.

"Are you obliged to go so soon? Can't you stay with me a little
longer?" pleaded Beulah.

The boy's eyes filled as he looked at the beseeching, haggard face,
and he answered hastily:

"Not to-night, Beulah; you must go to sleep--you need it sadly."

"You will be cold walking home. Let me get you a shawl."

"No, I left my overcoat in the hall--here it is."

She followed him out to the door, as he drew it on and put on his
cap. The moonlight shone over the threshold, and he thought she
looked ghostly as it fell upon her face. He took her hand, pressed
it gently, and said:

"Good-night, dear Beulah."

"Good-by, Eugene. Do come and see me again, soon."

"Yes, I will. Don't get low-spirited as soon as I am out of sight,
do you hear?"

"Yes, I hear; I will try not to complain. Walk fast and keep warm."

She pressed his hand affectionately, watched his receding form as
long as she could trace its outline, and then went slowly back to
the dormitory. Falling on her knees by the side of Lilly's empty
couch, she besought God, in trembling accents, to bless her "darling
little sister and Claudy," and to give her strength to perform all
her duties contentedly and cheerfully.



CHAPTER III.


Beulah stood waiting on the steps of the large mansion to which she
had been directed by Miss Dorothea White. Her heart throbbed
painfully, and her hand trembled as she rang the bell. The door was
opened by a negro waiter, who merely glanced at her, and asked
carelessly:

"Well, little miss, what do you want?"

"Is Mrs. Martin at home?"

"Yes, miss; come, walk in. There is but a poor fire in the front
parlor--suppose you sit down in the back room. Mrs. Martin will be
down in a minute."

The first object which arrested Beulah's attention was a center
table covered with books. "Perhaps," thought she, "they will permit
me to read some of them." While she sat looking over the titles the
rustle of silk caused her to glance around, and she saw Mrs. Martin
quite near her.

"Good-morning," said the lady, with a searching look, which made the
little figure tremble.

"Good-morning, madam."

"You are the girl Miss White promised to send from the asylum, are
you not?"

"Yes, madam."

"Do you think you can take good care of my baby?"

"Oh, I will try."

"You don't look strong and healthy--have you been sick?"

"No; I am very well, thank you."

"I may want you to sew some, occasionally, when the baby is asleep.
Can you hem and stitch neatly?"

"I believe I sew very well, madam--our matron says so."

"What is your name? Miss White told me, but I have forgotten it."

"Beulah Benton."

"Well, Beulah, I think you will suit me very well, if you are only
careful and attend to my directions. I am just going out shopping,
but you can come upstairs and take charge of Johnny. Where are your
clothes?"

"Our matron will send them to-day."

Beulah followed Mrs. Martin up the steps, somewhat reassured by her
kind reception. The room was in utter confusion, the toilet-table
covered with powder, hairpins, bows of different colored ribbon, and
various bits of jewelry; the hearth unswept, the workstand groaning
beneath the superincumbent mass of sewing, finished and unfinished
garments, working materials, and, to crown the whole, the lady's
winter hat. A girl, apparently about thirteen years of age, was
seated by the fire, busily embroidering a lamp-mat; another, some
six years younger, was dressing a doll; while an infant, five or six
months old, crawled about the carpet, eagerly picking up pins,
needles, and every other objectionable article his little purple
fingers could grasp.

"Take him, Beulah," said the mother.

She stooped to comply, and was surprised that the little fellow
testified no fear of her. She raised him in her arms, and kissed his
rosy cheeks, as he looked wonderingly at her.

"Ma, is that Johnny's new nurse? What is her name?" said the
youngest girl, laying down her doll and carefully surveying the
stranger.

"Yes, Annie; and her name is Beulah," replied the mother, adjusting
her bonnet.

"Beulah--it's about as pretty as her face. Yes, just about,"
continued Annie, in an audible whisper to her sister. The latter
gave Beulah a condescending stare, curled her lips disdainfully,
and, with a polite "Mind your own business, Annie," returned to her
embroidery.

"Keep the baby by the fire; and if he frets you must feed him.
Laura, show her where to find his cup of arrowroot, and you and
Annie stay here till I come home."

"No, indeed, ma, I can't; for I must go down and practice my music
lesson," answered the eldest daughter decisively.

"Well, then, Annie, stay in my room."

"I am going to make some sugar-candy, ma. She"--pointing to Beulah--
"can take care of Johnny. I thought that was what you hired her
for."

"You will make no sugar-candy till I come home, Miss Annie; do you
hear that? Now, mind what I said to you."

Mrs. Martin rustled out of the room, leaving Annie to scowl
ominously at the new nurse, and vent her spleen by boxing her doll,
because the inanimate little lady would not keep her blue-bead eyes
open. Beulah loved children, and Johnny forcibly reminded her of
earlier days, when she had carried Lilly about in her arms. For some
time after the departure of Mrs. Martin and Laura, the little fellow
seemed perfectly satisfied, but finally grew fretful, and Beulah
surmised he might be hungry.

"Will you please give me the baby's arrowroot?"

"I don't know anything about it; ask Harrison."

"Who is Harrison?"

"Why, the cook."

Glancing around the room, she found the arrowroot; the boy was fed,
and soon fell asleep. Beulah sat in a low rocking-chair, by the
hearth, holding the infant, and watching the little figure opposite.
Annie was trying to fit a new silk waist to her doll, but it was too
broad one way and too narrow another. She twisted and jerked it
divers ways, but all in vain; and at last, disgusted by the
experiment, she tore it off and aimed it at the fire, with an
impatient cry.

"The plagued, bothering, ugly thing! My Lucia never shall wear such
a fit."

Beulah caught the discarded waist, and said quietly:

"You can very easily make it fit, by taking up this seam and cutting
it out in the neck."

"I don't believe it."

"Then, hand me the doll and the scissors, and I will show you."

"Her name is Miss Lucia-di-Lammermoor. Mr. Green named her. Don't
say 'doll'; call her by her proper name," answered the spoiled
child, handing over the unfortunate waxen representative of a not
less unfortunate heroine.

"Well, then, Miss Lucia-di-Lammermoor," said Beulah, smiling. A few
alterations reduced the dress to proper dimensions, and Annie
arrayed her favorite in it, with no slight degree of satisfaction.
The obliging manner of the new nurse won her heart, and she began to
chat pleasantly enough. About two o'clock Mrs. Martin returned,
inquired after Johnny, and again absented herself to "see about
dinner." Beulah was very weary of the close, disordered room, and as
the babe amused himself with his ivory rattle, she swept the floor,
dusted the furniture, and arranged the chairs. The loud ringing of a
bell startled her, and she conjectured dinner was ready. Some time
elapsed before any of the family returned, and then Laura entered,
looking very sullen. She took charge of the babe, and rather
ungraciously desired the nurse to get her dinner.

"I do not wish any," answered Beulah.

At this stage of the conversation the door opened, and a boy,
seemingly about Eugene's age, entered the room. He looked curiously
at Beulah, inclined his head slightly, and joined his sister at the
fire.

"How do you like her, Laura?" he asked, in a distinct undertone.

"Oh, I suppose she will do well enough! but she is horribly ugly,"
replied Laura, in a similar key.

"I don't know, sis. It is what Dr. Patton, the lecturer on
physiognomy, would call a 'striking' face."

"Yes, strikingly ugly, Dick. Her forehead juts over, like the eaves
of the kitchen, and her eyebrows--"

"Hush! she will hear you. Come down and play that new waltz for me,
like a good sister." The two left the room. Beulah had heard every
word; she could not avoid it, and as she recalled Mrs. Grayson's
remark concerning her appearance on the previous day, her
countenance reflected her intense mortification. She pressed her
face against the window-pane and stared vacantly out. The elevated
position commanded a fine view of the town, and on the eastern
horizon the blue waters of the harbor glittered with "silvery
sheen." At any other time, and with different emotions, Beulah's
love of the beautiful would have been particularly gratified by this
extended prospect; but now the whole possessed no charms for her
darkened spirit. For the moment, earth was black-hued to her gaze;
she only saw "horribly ugly" inscribed on sky and water. Her soul
seemed to leap forward and view nearer the myriad motes that floated
in the haze of the future. She leaned over the vast whirring lottery
wheel of life, and saw a blank come up, with her name stamped upon
it. But the grim smile faded from her lips, and brave endurance
looked out from the large, sad eyes, as she murmured,

     "Be not like dumb, driven cattle, Be a hero in the strife."

"If I am ugly, God made me so, and I know 'He doeth all things
well.' I will not let it bother me; I will try not to think of it.
But, oh! I am so glad, I thank God that he made my Lilly beautiful.
She will never have to suffer as I do now. My own darling Lilly!"
Large drops glistened in her eyes; she rarely wept; but though the
tears did not fall, they gathered often in the gray depths. The
evening passed very quietly; Mr. Martin was absent in a distant
State, whither, as traveling agent for a mercantile house, he was
often called. After tea, when little Johnny had been put to sleep in
his crib, Mrs. Martin directed Annie to show the nurse her own room.
Taking a candle, the child complied, and her mother ordered one of
the servants to carry up the trunk containing Beulah's clothes. Up,
up two weary, winding flights of steps, the little Annie toiled,
and, pausing at the landing of the second, pointed to a low attic
chamber, lighted by dormer windows on the east and west. The floor
was uncovered; the furniture consisted of a narrow trundle-bed, a
washstand, a cracked looking-glass suspended from a nail, a small
deal table, and a couple of chairs. There were, also, some hooks
driven into the wall, to hang clothes upon.

"You need not be afraid to sleep here, because the boarders occupy
the rooms on the floor below this; and besides, you know robbers
never get up to the garret," said Annie, glancing around the
apartment, and shivering with an undefined dread, rather than with
cold, though her nose and fingers were purple, and this garret
chamber possessed neither stove nor chimney.

"I am not afraid; but this is only one garret room. Are the others
occupied?"

"Yes--by carpets in summer and rats in winter," laughed Annie.

"I suppose I may have a candle?" said Beulah, as the porter
deposited her trunk and withdrew.

"Yes, this one is for you. Ma is always uneasy about fire, so don't
set anything in a blaze to keep yourself warm. Here, hold the light
at the top of the steps till I get down to the next floor, then
there is a hall-lamp. Good-night."

"Good-night." Beulah bolted the door, and surveyed her new
apartment. Certainly it was sufficiently cheerless, but its isolated
position presented to her a redeeming feature. Thought she, "I can
sit up here, and read just as late as I please. Oh! I shall have so
much time to myself these long, long nights." Unpacking her trunk,
she hung her dresses on the hooks, placed the books Mrs. Mason and
Eugene had given her on the table, and, setting the candle beside
them, smiled in anticipation of the many treats in store for her.
She read several chapters in her Bible, and then, as her head ached
and her eyes grew heavy, she sank upon her knees. Ah! what an
earnest, touching petition ascended to the throne of the Father;
prayers, first for Lilly and Claudia, and lastly for herself.

"Help me, O Lord! not to be troubled and angry when I hear that I am
so ugly; and make me remember that I am your child." Such was her
final request, and she soon slept soundly, regardless of the fact
that she was now thrown upon the wide, though not altogether cold or
unloving, world.



CHAPTER IV.


Day after day passed monotonously, and, except a visit from Eugene,
there was no link added to the chain which bound Beulah to the past.
That brief visit encouraged and cheered the lonely heart, yearning
for affectionate sympathy, yet striving to hush the hungry cry and
grow contented with its lot. During the second week of her stay
little Johnny was taken sick, and he had become so fond of his new
attendant that no one else was permitted to hold him. Often she
paced the chamber floor for hours, lulling the fretful babe with
softly sung tunes of other days, and the close observer, who could
have peered at such times into the downcast eyes, might have easily
traced in the misty depths memories that nestled in her heart's
sanctuary. The infant soon recovered, and one warm, sunny afternoon,
when Mrs. Martin directed Beulah to draw him in his wicker carriage
up and down the pavement before the door, she could no longer
repress the request which had trembled on her lips more than once,
and asked permission to take her little charge to Mrs. Grayson's. A
rather reluctant assent was given, and soon the carriage was drawn
in the direction of Mr. Grayson's elegant city residence. A
marvelous change came over the wan face of the nurse as she paused
at the marble steps, guarded on either side by sculptured lions. "To
see Lilly." The blood sprang to her cheeks, and an eager look of
delight crept into the eyes. The door was partially opened by an
insolent-looking footman, whose hasty glance led him to suppose her
one of the numerous supplicants for charity, who generally left that
princely mansion as empty-handed as they came. He was about to close
the door; but, undaunted by this reception, she hastily asked to see
Mrs. Grayson and Lillian Benton.

"Mrs. Grayson is engaged, and there is no such person here as
Lillian Benton. Miss Lilly Grayson is my young mistress' name; but I
can tell you, her mamma don't suffer her to see the like of you; so
be off."

"Lilly is my sister, and I must see her. Tell Mrs. Grayson Beulah
Benton wishes to see her sister; and ask her also if Claudia may not
see me."

She dropped the tongue of the carriage, and the thin hands clutched
each other in an agony of dread, lest her petition should be
refused. The succeeding five minutes seemed an eternity to her, and,
as the door opened again, she leaned forward and held her breath,
like one whose fate was in the balance. Costly silk and dazzling
diamonds met her gaze. The settled lines of Mrs. Grayson's pretty
mouth indicated that she had a disagreeable duty to perform, yet had
resolved to do it at once, and set the matter forever at rest.

"You are Mrs. Martin's nurse, I believe, and the girl I saw at the
asylum?" said she frigidly.

"Yes, madam; I am Lilly's sister; you said I might come and see her.
Oh, if you only knew how miserable I have been since we were parted,
you would not look so coldly at me! Do, please, let me see her. Oh,
don't deny me!"

These words were uttered in a tone of imploring agony.

"I am very sorry you happen to be her sister, and I assure you,
child, it pains me to refuse you; but, when you remember the
circumstances, you ought not to expect to associate with her as you
used to do. She will be educated to move in a circle very far above
you; and you ought to be more than willing to give her up, when you
know how lucky she has been in securing a home of wealth. Besides,
she is getting over the separation very nicely indeed, and if she
were to see you even once it would make matters almost as bad as
ever. I dare say you are a good girl, and will not trouble me any
further. My husband and I are unwilling that you should see Lilly
again; and though I am very sorry I am forced to disappoint you, I
feel that I am doing right."

The petitioner fell on her knees, and, extending her arms, said
huskily:

"Oh, madam! are we to be parted forever? I pray you, in the name of
God, let me see her! let me see her!"

Mrs. Grayson was not a cruel woman, far from it, but she was
strangely weak and worldly. The idea of a hired nurse associating
familiarly with her adopted daughter was repulsive to her
aristocratic pride, and therefore she hushed the tones of true
womanly sympathy, and answered resolutely:

"It pains me to refuse you; but I have given good reasons, and
cannot think of changing my determination. I hope you will not annoy
me by any future efforts to enter my house. There is a present for
you. Good-evening."

She tossed a five-dollar gold piece toward the kneeling figure, and,
closing the door, locked it on the inside. The money rolled
ringingly down the steps, and the grating sound of the key, as it
was hurriedly turned, seemed typical of the unyielding lock which
now forever barred the child's hopes. The look of utter despair gave
place to an expression of indescribable bitterness. Springing from
her suppliant posture, she muttered with terrible emphasis:

"A curse on that woman and her husband! May God answer their prayers
as she has answered mine!"

Picking up the coin which lay glittering on the sidewalk, she threw
it forcibly against the door, and, as it rebounded into the street,
took the carriage tongue, and slowly retraced her steps. It was not
surprising that passers-by gazed curiously at the stony face, with
its large eyes, brimful of burning hate, as the injured orphan
walked mechanically on, unconscious that her lips were crushed till
purple drops oozed over them. The setting sun flashed his ruddy
beams caressingly over her brow, and whispering winds lifted
tenderly the clustering folds of jetty hair; but nature's pure-
hearted darling had stood over the noxious tarn, whence the
poisonous breath of a corrupt humanity rolled upward, and the once
sinless child inhaled the vapor until her soul was a great boiling
Marah. Ah, truly

"There are swift hours in life--strong, rushing hours--That do the
work of tempests in their might!"

Peaceful valleys, green and flowery, sleeping in loveliness, have
been unheaved, and piled in somber, jagged masses, against the sky,
by the fingering of an earthquake; and gentle, loving, trusting
hearts, over whose altars brooded the white-winged messengers of
God's peace, have been as suddenly transformed by a manifestation of
selfishness and injustice, into gloomy haunts of misanthropy. Had
Mrs. Grayson been arraigned for cruelty, or hard-heartedness, before
a tribunal of her equals (i. e., fashionable friends), the charge
would have been scornfully repelled, and unanimous would have been
her acquittal. "Hard-hearted! oh, no! she was only prudent and
wise." Who could expect her to suffer her pampered, inert darling to
meet and acknowledge as an equal the far less daintily fed and
elegantly clad sister, whom God called to labor for her frugal
meals? Ah, this fine-ladyism, this ignoring of labor, to which, in
accordance with the divine decree, all should be subjected: this
false-effeminacy, and miserable affectation of refinement, which
characterizes the age, is the unyielding lock on the wheels of
social reform and advancement.

Beulah took her charge home, and when dusk came on rocked him to
sleep, and snugly folded the covering of his crib over the little
throbbing heart, whose hours of trial were yet veiled by the
impenetrable curtain of futurity. Mrs. Martin and her elder children
had gone to a concert, and, of course, the nurse was to remain with
Johnny until his mother's return. Standing beside the crib, and
gazing down at the rosy cheeks and curling locks, nestled against
the pillow, Beulah's thoughts winged along the tear-stained past, to
the hour when Lilly had been placed in her arms, by emaciated hands
stiffening in death. For six years she had held, and hushed, and
caressed her dying father's last charge, and now strange, ruthless
fingers had torn the clinging heart-strings from the idol. There
were no sobs, nor groans, to voice the anguish of the desolate
orphan. The glittering eyes were tearless, but the brow was darkly
furrowed, the ashy lips writhed, and the folded hands were purple
from compression. Turning from the crib, she threw up the sash, and
seated herself on the window-sill. Below lay the city, with its
countless lamps gleaming in every direction, and stretching away on
the principal streets, like long processions; in the distance the
dark waters of the river, over which steamboat lights flashed now
and then like ignesfatui; and above her arched the dome of sky, with
its fiery fretwork. Never before had she looked up at the starry
groups without an emotion of exulting joy, of awful adoration. To
her worshiping gaze they had seemed glimpses of the spirit's home;
nay, loving eyes shining down upon her thorny pathway. But now, the
twinkling rays fell unheeded, impotent to pierce the sable clouds of
grief. She sat looking out into the night, with strained eyes that
seemed fastened upon a corpse. An hour passed thus, and, as the
clang of the town clock died away the shrill voice of the watchman
rang through the air:

"Nine o'clock; and all's well!"

Beulah lifted her head, and listened. "All's well!" The mockery
maddened her, and she muttered audibly:

"That is the sort of sympathy I shall have through life. I am to
hear that 'all is well' when my heart is dying, nay, dead within me!
Oh, if I could only die! What a calm, calm time I should have in my
coffin! Nobody to taunt me with my poverty and ugliness! Oh, what
did God make me for? The few years of my life have been full of
misery; I cannot remember one single day of pure happiness, for
there was always something to spoil what little joy I ever knew.
When I was born, why did not I die at once? And why did not God take
me instead of my dear, dear father? He should have been left with
Lilly, for people love the beautiful, but nobody will ever care for
me. I am of no use to anything, and so ugly that I hate myself. O
Lord, I don't want to live another day! I am sick of my life--take
me, take me!" But a feeble ray of comfort stole into her shivering
heart, as she bowed her head upon her hands; Eugene Graham loved
her; and the bleeding tendrils of affection henceforth clasped him
as their only support. She was aroused from her painful reverie by a
movement in the crib, and, hastening to her charge, was startled by
the appearance of the babe. The soft blue eyes were rolled up and
set, the face of a purplish hue, and the delicate limbs convulsed.
During her residence at the asylum she had more than once assisted
the matron in nursing children similarly affected; and now, calling
instantly for a tub of water, she soon immersed the rigid limbs in a
warm bath, while one of the waiters was dispatched for the family
physician. When Dr. Hartwell entered he found her standing with the
infant clasped in her arms, and, as his eyes rested curiously upon
her face, she forgot that he was a stranger, and, springing to meet
him, exclaimed:

"Oh, sir; will he die?"

With his fingers on the bounding pulse, he answered:

"He is very ill. Where is his mother? Who are you?"

"His mother is at a concert, and I am his nurse."

The spasms had ceased, but the twitching limbs told that they might
return any moment, and the physician immediately administered a
potion.

"How long will Mrs. Martin be absent?"

"It is uncertain. When shall I give the medicine again?"

"I shall remain until she comes home."

Beulah was pacing up and down the floor, with Johnny in her arms;
Dr. Hartwell stood on the hearth, leaning his elbow on the
mantelpiece, and watching the slight form as it stole softly to and
fro. Gradually the child became quiet, but his nurse kept up her
walk. Dr. Hartwell said abruptly:

"Sit down, girl! you will walk yourself into a shadow."

She lifted her head, shook it in reply, and resumed her measured
tread.

"What is your name?"

"Beulah Benton."

"Beulah!" repeated the doctor, while a smile flitted over his
mustached lip. She observed it, and exclaimed, with bitter emphasis:

"You need not tell me it is unsuitable; I know it; I feel it.
Beulah! Beulah! Oh, my father! I have neither sunshine nor flowers,
nor hear the singing of birds, nor the voice of the turtle. You
ought to have called me Marah."

"You have read the 'Pilgrim's Progress' then?" said he, with a
searching glance.

Either she did not hear him, or was too entirely engrossed by
painful reflection to frame an answer. The despairing expression
settled upon her face, and the broken threads of memory wove on
again.

"Beulah, how came you here in the capacity of nurse?"

"I was driven here by necessity."

"Where are your parents and friends?"

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

"How long have you been so dependent?"

She raised her hand deprecatingly, nay commandingly, as though she
had said:

"No more. You have not the right to question, nor I the will to
answer."

He marked the look of unconquerable grief, and, understanding her
gesture, made no more inquiries.

Soon after, Mrs. Martin returned, and, having briefly stated what
had occurred, and given directions for the child's treatment, he
withdrew. His low "good-night," gently spoken to the nurse, was only
acknowledged by a slight inclination of the head as he passed her.
Little Johnny was restless, and constantly threatened with a return
of the convulsions. His mother held him on her knee, and telling
Beulah she "had been a good, sensible girl to bathe him so
promptly," gave her permission to retire.

"I am not at all sleepy, and would rather stay here and nurse him.
He does not moan so much when I walk with him. Give him back to me."

"But you will be tired out."

"I shall not mind it." Stooping down, she lifted the restless boy,
and, wrapping his cloak about him, commenced the same noiseless
tread. Thus the night waned; occasionally Mrs. Martin rose and felt
her babe's pulse, and assisted in giving the hourly potions, then
reseated herself, and allowed the hireling to walk on. Once she
offered to relieve her, but the arms refused to yield their burden.
A little after four the mother slept soundly in her chair. Gradually
the stars grew dim, and the long, undulating chain of clouds that
girded the eastern horizon kindled into a pale orange that
transformed them into mountains of topaz. Pausing by the window, and
gazing vacantly out, Beulah's eyes were suddenly riveted on the
gorgeous pageant, which untiring nature daily renews, and she stood
watching the masses of vapor painted by coming sunlight, and
floating slowly before the wind, until the "King of Day" flashed up
and dazzled her. Mrs. Martin was awakened by the entrance of a
servant, and starting up, exclaimed:

"Bless me! I have been asleep. Beulah, how is Johnny? You must be
tired to death."

"He is sleeping now very quietly; I think he is better; his fever is
not so high. I will take care of him, and you had better take
another nap before breakfast."

Mrs. Martin obeyed the nurse's injunction, and it was two hours
later when she took her child and directed Beulah to get her
breakfast. But the weary girl felt no desire for the meal, and,
retiring to her attic room, bathed her eyes and replaited her hair.
Kneeling beside her bed, she tried to pray, but the words died on
her lips; and, too miserable to frame a petition, she returned to
the chamber where, in sad vigils, she had spent the night. Dr.
Hartwell bowed as she entered, but the head was bent down, and,
without glancing at him, she took the fretful, suffering child and
walked to the window. While she stood there her eyes fell upon the
loved face of her best friend. Eugene Graham was crossing the
street. For an instant the burning blood surged over her wan, sickly
cheeks, and the pale lips parted in a smile of delight, as she
leaned forward to see whether he was coming in. The door bell rang,
and she sprang from the window, unconscious of the piercing eyes
fastened upon her. Hastily laying little Johnny on his mother's lap,
she merely said, "I will be back soon," and, darting down the steps,
met Eugene at the entrance, throwing her arms around his neck and
hiding her face on his shoulder.

"What is the matter, Beulah? Do tell me," said he anxiously.

Briefly she related her fruitless attempt to see Lilly, and pointed
out the nature of the barrier which must forever separate them.
Eugene listened with flashing eyes, and several times the word
"brutal" escaped his lips. He endeavored to comfort her by holding
out hopes of brighter days, but her eyes were fixed on shadows, and
his cheering words failed to call up a smile. They stood in the hall
near the front door, and here Dr. Hartwell found them when he left
the sickroom. Eugene looked up as he approached them, and stepped
forward with a smile of recognition to shake the extended hand.
Beulah's countenance became instantly repellent, and she was turning
away when the doctor addressed her:

"You must feel very much fatigued from being up all night. I know
from your looks that you did not close your eyes."

"I am no worse looking than usual, thank you," she replied icily,
drawing back as she spoke, behind Eugene. The doctor left them, and,
as his buggy rolled from the door, Beulah seemed to breathe freely
again. Poor child; her sensitive nature had so often been deeply
wounded by the thoughtless remarks of strangers, that she began to
shrink from all observation, as the surest mode of escaping pain.
Eugene noticed her manner, and, biting his lips with vexation, said
reprovingly:

"Beulah, you were very rude to Dr. Hartwell. Politeness costs
nothing, and you might at least have answered his question with
ordinary civility."

Her eyelids drooped, and a tremor passed over her mouth, as she
answered meekly:

"I did not intend to be rude; but I dread to have people look at or
speak to me."

"Why, pray?"

"Because I am so ugly, and they are sure to show me that they see
it."

He drew his arm protectingly around her, and said gently: "Poor
child; it is cruel to make you suffer so. But rest assured Dr.
Hartwell will never wound your feelings. I have heard that he was a
very stern and eccentric man, though a remarkably learned one, yet I
confess there is something in his manner which fascinates me, and if
you will only be like yourself he will always speak kindly to you.
But I am staying too long. Don't look so forlorn and ghostly.
Positively I hate to come to see you, for somehow your wretched face
haunts me. Here is a book I have just finished; perhaps it will
serve to divert your mind." He put a copy of Irving's "Sketch Book"
in her hand, and drew on his gloves.

"Oh, Eugene, can't you stay a little longer--just a little longer?
It seems such a great while since you were here." She looked up
wistfully into the handsome, boyish face.

Drawing out an elegant new watch, he held it before her eyes, and
answered hurriedly:

"See there; it is ten o'clock, and I am behind my appointment at the
lecture room. Good-by; try to be cheerful. 'What can't be cured must
be endured,' you know, so do not despond, dear Beulah." Shaking her
hand cordially, he ran down the steps. The orphan pressed her hands
tightly over her brow, as if to stay some sudden, painful thought,
and slowly remounted the stairs.



CHAPTER V.


Little Johnny's illness proved long and serious, and for many days
and nights he seemed on the verge of the tomb. His wailings were
never hushed except in Beulah's arms, and, as might be supposed,
constant watching soon converted her into a mere shadow of her
former self. Dr. Hartwell often advised rest and fresh air for her,
but the silent shake of her head proved how reckless she was of her
own welfare. Thus several weeks elapsed, and gradually the sick
child grew stronger. One afternoon Beulah sat holding him on her
knee: he had fallen asleep, with one tiny hand clasping hers, and
while he slept she read. Absorbed in the volume Eugene had given
her, her thoughts wandered on with the author, amid the moldering
monuments of Westminster Abbey, and finally the sketch was concluded
by that solemn paragraph: "Thus man passes away; his name perishes
from record and recollection; his history is as a tale that is told,
and his very monument becomes a ruin." Again she read this sad
comment on the vanity of earth and its ephemeral hosts, and her mind
was filled with weird images, that looked out from her earnest eyes.
Dr. Hartwell entered unperceived, and stood for some moments at the
back of her chair, glancing over her shoulder at the last page. At
length she closed the book, and, passing her hand wearily over her
eyes, said audibly:

"Ah! if we could only have sat down together in that gloomy garret,
and had a long talk! It would have helped us both. Poor Chatterton!
I know just how you felt, when you locked your door and lay down on
your truckle-bed, and swallowed your last draught!"

"There is not a word about Chatterton in that sketch," said the
doctor.

She started, looked up, and answered slowly:

"No, not a word, not a word. He was buried among paupers, you know."

"What made you think of him?"

"I thought that instead of resting in the Abbey, under sculptured
marble, his bones were scattered, nobody knows where. I often think
of him."

"Why?"

"Because he was so miserable and uncared-for; because sometimes I
feel exactly as he did." As she uttered these words she compressed
her lips in a manner which plainly said, "There, I have no more to
say, so do not question me."

He had learned to read her countenance, and as he felt the infant's
pulse, pointed to the crib, saying:

"You must lay him down now; he seems fast asleep."

"No, I may as well hold him."

"Girl, will you follow my directions?" said he sharply.

Beulah looked up at him for a moment, then rose and placed the boy
in his crib, while a sort of grim smile distorted her features. The
doctor mixed some medicine, and, setting the glass on the table, put
both hands in his pockets and walked up to the nurse. Her head was
averted.

"Beulah, will you be good enough to look at me?" She fixed her eyes
proudly on his, and her beautiful teeth gleamed through the parted
lips.

"Do you know that Eugene is going away very soon, to be absent at
least five years?"

An incredulous smile flitted over her face, but the ashen hue of
death settled there.

"I am in earnest. He leaves for Europe next week, to be gone a long
time."

She extended her hands pleadingly, and said in a hoarse whisper:

"Are you sure?"

"Quite sure; his passage is already engaged in a packet that will
sail early next week. What will become of you in his absence?"

The strained eyes met his, vacantly; the icy hands dropped, and she
fell forward against him.

Guy Hartwell placed the slight, attenuated form on the sofa, and
stood with folded arms looking down at the colorless face. His high
white brow clouded, and a fierce light kindled in his piercing dark
eyes, as through closed teeth came the rather indistinct words:

"It is madness to indulge the thought; I was a fool to dream of it.
She would prove heartless, like all of her sex, and repay me with
black ingratitude. Let her fight the battle of life unaided."

He sprinkled a handful of water on the upturned face, and in a few
minutes saw the eyelids tremble, and knew from the look of suffering
that with returning consciousness came the keen pangs of grief. She
covered her face with her hands, and, after a little while, asked:

"Shall I ever see him again?"

"He will come here to-night to tell you about his trip. But what
will become of you in his absence?--answer me that!"

"God only knows!"

Dr. Hartwell wrote the directions for Johnny's medicine, and,
placing the slip of paper on the glass, took his hat and left the
room. Beulah sat with her head pressed against the foot of the crib-
-stunned, taking no note of the lapse of time.

                             "Twilight gray
     Had in her sober livery all things clad."

The room had grown dark, save where a mellow ray stole through the
western window. Beulah rose mechanically, lighted the lamp, and
shaded it so as to shield the eyes of the sleeping boy. The door was
open, and, glancing up, she saw Eugene on the threshold. Her arms
were thrown around him, with a low cry of mingled joy and grief.

"Oh, Eugene! please don't leave me! Whom have I in the world but
you?"

"Beulah, dear, I must go. Only think of the privilege of being at a
German university! I never dreamed of such a piece of good luck.
Don't cry so; I shall come back some of these days, such an erudite,
such an elegant young man, you will hardly know me. Only five years.
I am almost seventeen now; time passes very quickly, and you will
scarcely miss me before I shall be at home again."

He lifted up her face, and laughed gayly as he spoke.

"When are you to go?"

"The vessel sails Wednesday--three days from now. I shall be very
busy until then. Beulah, what glorious letters I shall write you
from the Old World! I am to see all Europe before I return; that is,
my father says I shall. He is coming on, in two or three years, with
Cornelia, and we are all to travel together. Won't it be glorious?"

"Yes, for you. But, Eugene, my heart seems to die when I think of
those coming five years. How shall I live without you? Oh, what
shall I do?"

"There, Beulah! do not look so wretched. You will have a thousand
things to divert your mind. My father says he will see that you are
sent to the public school. You know the tuition is free, and he
thinks he can find some good, kind family, where you will be taken
care of till your education is finished. Your studies will occupy
you closely, and you will have quite enough to think of, without
troubling yourself about my absence. Of course you will write to me
constantly, and each letter will be like having a nice, quiet chat
together. Oh. dear! can't you get up a smile, and look less forlorn?
You never would look on the bright side."

"Because I never had any to look on, except you and Lilly; and when
you are gone, everything will be dark--dark!" she groaned, and
covered her face with her hands.

"Not unless you determine to make it so. If I did not know that my
father would attend to your education, I should not be so delighted
to go. Certainly, Beulah, in improving yourself, you will have very
little leisure to sit down and repine that your lot is not among the
brightest. Do try to hope that things may change for the better. If
they do not, why, I shall not spend eternity in Europe; and when I
come home, of course I shall take care of you myself." She stood
with one hand resting on his arm, and while he talked on,
carelessly, of her future, she fixed her eyes on his countenance,
thinking of the desolate hours in store for her, when the mighty
Atlantic billows surged between her and the noble, classic face she
loved so devotedly. A shadowy panorama of coming years glided before
her, and trailing clouds seemed gathered about the path her little
feet must tread. A vague foreboding discovered to her the
cheerlessness, and she shivered in anticipating the dreariness that
awaited her. But there was time enough for the raging of the storm;
why rush so eagerly to meet it? She closed her eyes to shut out the
grim vision, and listened resolutely to the plans suggested for her
approval. When Eugene rose to say "good-night," it was touching to
note the efforts she made to appear hopeful; the sob swallowed, lest
it should displease him; the trembling lips forced into a smile, and
the heavy eyelids lifted bravely to meet his glance. When the door
closed after his retreating form, the hands were clasped
convulsively, and the white, tearless face, mutely revealed the
desolation which that loving heart locked in its darkened chambers.



CHAPTER VI.


Several tedious weeks had rolled away since Eugene Graham left his
sunny Southern home to seek learning in the venerable universities
of the Old World. Blue-eyed May, the carnival month of the year, had
clothed the earth with verdure, and enameled it with flowers of
every hue, scattering her treasures before the rushing car of
summer. During the winter scarlet fever had hovered threateningly
over the city, but, as the spring advanced, hopes were entertained
that all danger had passed. Consequently, when it was announced that
the disease had made its appearance in a very malignant form, in the
house adjoining Mrs. Martin's, she determined to send her children
immediately out of town. A relative living at some distance up the
river happened to be visiting her at the time, and, as she intended
returning home the following day, kindly offered to take charge of
the children until all traces of the disease had vanished. To this
plan Beulah made no resistance, though the memory of her little
sister haunted her hourly. What could she do? Make one last attempt
to see her, and if again refused then it mattered not whither she
went. When the preparations for their journey had been completed,
and Johnny slept soundly in his crib, Beulah put on her old straw
bonnet, and set out for Mr. Grayson's residence. The sun was low in
the sky, and the evening breeze, rippling the waters of the bay,
stirred the luxuriant foliage of the ancient China trees that
bordered the pavements. The orphan's heart was heavy with undefined
dread; such a dread as had oppressed her the day of her separation
from her sister.

     "Coming events cast their shadows before,"

and she was conscious that the sunset glow could not dispel the
spectral gloom which enveloped her. She walked on, with her head
bowed, like one stooping from an impending blow, and when at last
the crouching lions confronted her she felt as if her heart had
suddenly frozen. There stood the doctor's buggy. She sprang up the
steps, and stretched out her hand for the bolt of the door. Long
streamers of crape floated through her fingers. She stood still a
moment, then threw open the door and rushed in. The hall floor was
covered to muffle the tread; not a sound reached her save the
stirring of the China trees outside. Her hand was on the balustrade
to ascend the steps, but her eyes fell upon a piece of crape
fastened to the parlor door, and, pushing it ajar, she looked in.
The furniture was draped; even the mirrors and pictures; and on a
small oblong table in the center of the room lay a shrouded form. An
over-powering perfume of crushed flowers filled the air, and Beulah
stood on the threshold, with her hands extended, and her eyes fixed
upon the table. There were two children; Lilly might yet live, and
an unvoiced prayer went up to God that the dead might be Claudia.
Then like scathing lightning came the recollection of her curse:
"May God answer their prayers as they answered mine." With rigid
limbs she tottered to the table, and laid her hand on the velvet
pall; with closed eyes she drew it down, then held her breath and
looked. There lay her idol, in the marble arms of death. Ah! how
matchlessly beautiful, wrapped in her last sleep! The bright golden
curls glittered around the snowy brow, and floated like wandering
sunlight over the arms and shoulders. The tiny waxen fingers clasped
each other as in life, and the delicately chiseled lips were just
parted, as though the sleeper whispered. Beulah's gaze dwelt upon
this mocking loveliness, then the arms were thrown wildly up, and,
with a long, wailing cry, her head sank heavily on the velvet
cushion, beside the cold face of her dead darling. How long it
rested there she never knew. Earth seemed to pass away; darkness
closed over her, and for a time she had no pain, no sorrow; she and
Lilly were together. All was black, and she had no feeling. Then she
was lifted, and the motion aroused her torpid faculties; she moaned
and opened her eyes. Dr. Hartwell was placing her on a sofa, and
Mrs. Grayson stood by the table with a handkerchief over her eyes.
With returning consciousness came a raving despair; Beulah sprang
from the strong arm that strove to detain her, and, laying one
clinched hand on the folded fingers of the dead, raised the other
fiercely toward Mrs. Grayson, and exclaimed almost frantically:

"You have murdered her! I knew it would be so, when you took my
darling from my arms, and refused my prayer! Aye, my prayer! I knelt
and prayed you, in the name of God, to let me see her once more; to
let me hold her to my heart, and kiss her lips, and forehead, and
little slender hands. You scorned a poor girl's prayer; you taunted
me with my poverty, and locked me from my darling, my Lilly, my all!
Oh, woman! you drove me wild, and I cursed you and your husband. Ha!
Has your wealth and splendor saved her? God have mercy upon me, I
feel as if I could curse you eternally. Could you not have sent for
me before she died? Oh, if I could only have taken her in my arms,
and seen her soft angel eyes looking up to me, and felt her little
arms around my neck, and heard her say 'sister' for the last time!
Would it have taken a dime from your purse, or made you less
fashionable, to have sent for me before she died? 'Such measure as
ye mete, shall be meted to you again.' May you live to have your
heart trampled and crushed, even as you have trampled mine!"

Her arm sank to her side, and once more the blazing eyes were
fastened on the young sleeper; while Mrs. Grayson, cowering like a
frightened child, left the room. Beulah fell on her knees, and,
crossing her arms on the table, bowed her head; now and then broken,
wailing tones passed the white lips. Dr. Hartwell stood in a recess
of the window, with folded arms and tightly compressed mouth,
watching the young mourner. Once he moved toward her, then drew
back, and a derisive smile distorted his features, as though he
scorned himself for the momentary weakness. He turned suddenly away,
and reached the door, but paused to look back. The old straw bonnet,
with its faded pink ribbon, had fallen off, and heavy folds of black
hair veiled the bowed face. He noted the slight, quivering form, and
the thin hands, and a look of remorseful agony swept over his
countenance. A deadly pallor settled on cheek and brow, as, with an
expression of iron resolve, he retraced his steps, and, putting his
hand on the orphan's shoulder, said gently:

"Beulah, this is no place for you. Come with me, child."

She shrank from his touch, and put up one hand, waving him off.

"Your sister died with the scarlet fever, and Claudia is now very
ill with it. If you stay here you will certainly take it yourself."

"I hope I shall take it."

He laid his fingers on the pale, high brow, and, softly drawing back
the thick hair, said earnestly: "Beulah, come home with me. Be my
child; my daughter."

Again her hand was raised to put him aside.

"No. You too would hate me for my ugliness. Let me hide it in the
grave with Lilly. They cannot separate us there." He lifted her
head; and, looking down into the haggard face, answered kindly:

"I promise you I will not think you ugly. I will make you happy.
Come to me, child." She shook her head with a moan. Passing his arm
around her, he raised her from the carpet, and leaned her head
against him.

"Poor little sufferer! they have made you drink, prematurely,
earth's bitter draughts. They have disenchanted your childhood of
its fairy-like future. Beulah, you are ill now. Do not struggle so.
You must come with me, my child." He took her in his strong arms,
and bore her out of the house of death. His buggy stood at the door,
and, seating himself in it, he directed the boy who accompanied him
to "drive home." Beulah offered no resistance; she hid her face in
her hands, and sat quite still, scarcely conscious of what passed.
She knew that a firm arm held her securely, and, save her
wretchedness, knew nothing else. Soon she was lifted out of the
buggy, carried up a flight of steps, and then a flood of light
flashed through the fingers upon her closed eyelids. Dr. Hartwell
placed his change on a sofa, and rank the bell. The summons was
promptly answered by a negro woman of middle age. She stood at the
door awaiting the order, but his eyes were bent on the floor, and
his brows knitted.

"Master, did you ring?"

"Yes; tell my sister to come to me."

He took a turn across the floor, and paused by the open window. As
the night air rustled the brown locks on his temples, he sighed
deeply. The door opened, and a tall, slender woman, of perhaps
thirty-five years, entered the room. She was pale and handsome, with
a profusion of short chestnut curls about her face. With her hand
resting on the door, she said, in a calm, clear tone:

"Well, Guy."

He started, and, turning from the window, approached her.

"May, I want a room arranged for this child as soon as possible.
Will you see that a hot footbath is provided? When it is ready, send
Harriet for her."

His sister's lips curled as she looked searchingly at the figure on
the sofa, and said coldly:

"What freak now, Guy?"

For a moment their eyes met steadily, and he smiled grimly.

"I intend to adopt that poor little orphan; that is all!"

"Where did you pick her up, at the hospital?" said she sneeringly.

"No, she has been hired as a nurse, at a boarding house." He folded
his arms, and again they looked at each other.

"I thought you had had quite enough of protegees." She nervously
clasped and unclasped her jet bracelet.

"Take care, May Ohilton! Mark me. Lift the pall from the past once
more, and you and Pauline must find another home, another protector.
Now, will you see that a room is prepared as I directed?" He was
very pale, and his eyes burned fiercely, yet his tone was calm and
subdued. Mrs. Chilton bit her lips and withdrew. Dr. Hartwell walked
up and down the room for a while, now and then looking sadly at the
young stranger. She sat just as he had placed her, with her hands
over her face. Kindly he bent down, and whispered:

"Will you trust me, Beulah?"

She made no answer; but he saw her brow wrinkle, and knew that she
shuddered. The servant came in to say that the room had been
arranged, as he had directed. However surprised she might have been
at this sudden advent of the simply clad orphan in her master's
study, there was not the faintest indication of it in her
impenetrable countenance. Not even the raising of an eyebrow.

"Harriet, see that her feet are well bathed; and, when she is in
bed, come for some medicine."

Then, drawing the hands from her eyes, he said to Beulah:

"Go with her, my child. I am glad I have you safe under my own roof,
where no more cruel injustice can assail you."

He pressed her hand kindly, and, rising mechanically, Beulah
accompanied Harriet, who considerately supported the drooping form.
The room to which she was conducted was richly furnished, and
lighted by an elegant colored lamp, suspended from the ceiling. Mrs.
Chilton stood near an armchair, looking moody and abstracted.
Harriet carefully undressed the poor mourner, and, wrapping a shawl
about her, placed her in the chair, and bathed her feet. Mrs.
Chilton watched her with ill-concealed impatience. When the little
dripping feet were dried, Harriet lifted her, as if she had been an
infant, and placed her in bed, then brought the medicine from the
study, and administered a spoonful of the mixture. Placing her
finger on the girl's wrist, she counted the rapid pulse, and,
turning unconcernedly toward Mrs. Chilton, said:

"Miss May, master says you need not trouble about the medicine. I am
to sleep in the room and take care of this little girl."

"Very well. See that she is properly attended to, as my brother
directed. My head aches miserably, or I should remain myself."

She glanced at the bed, and left the room. Harriet leaned over the
pillow and examined the orphan's countenance. The eyes were closed,
but scalding tears rolled swiftly over the cheeks, and the hands
were clasped over the brow, as if to still its throbbings. Harriet's
face softened, and she said kindly:

"Poor thing! what ails you? What makes you cry so?"

Beulah pressed her head closer to the pillow, and murmured:

"I am so miserable! I want to die, and God will not take me."

"Don't say that till you see whether you've got the scarlet fever.
If you have, you are likely to be taken pretty soon, I can tell you;
and if you haven't, why, it's all for the best. It is a bad plan to
fly in the Almighty's face that way, and tell him what he shall do
and what he shan't."

This philosophic response fell unheeded on poor Beulah's ears, and
Harriet was about to inquire more minutely into the cause of her
grief, but she perceived her master standing beside her, and
immediately moved away from the bed. Drawing out his watch, he
counted the pulse several times. The result seemed to trouble him,
and he stood for some minutes watching the motionless form.

"Harriet, bring me a glass of ice-water."

Laying his cool hand on the hot forehead of the suffering girl, he
said tenderly:

"My child, try not to cry any more to-night. It is very bitter, I
know; but remember that, though Lilly has been taken from you, from
this day you have a friend, a home, a guardian."

Harriet proffered the glass of water. He took it, raised the head,
and put the sparkling draught to Beulah's parched lips. Without
unclosing her eyes, she drank the last crystal drop, and, laying the
head back on the pillow, he drew an armchair before the window at
the further end of the room, and seated himself.



CHAPTER VII.


Through quiet, woody dells roamed Beulah's spirit, and, hand in
hand, she and Lilly trod flowery paths and rested beside clear,
laughing brooks. Life, with its grim realities, seemed but a flying
mist. The orphan hovered on the confines of eternity's ocean, and
its silent waves almost laved the feet of the weary child. The room
was darkened, and the summer wind stole through the blinds
stealthily, as if awed by the solitude of the sick-chamber. Dr.
Hartwell sat by the low French bedstead, holding one emaciated hand
in his, counting the pulse which bounded so fiercely in the blue
veins. A fold of white linen containing crushed ice lay on her
forehead, and the hollow cheeks and thin lips were flushed to
vermilion hue. It was not scarlet, but brain fever, and this was the
fifth day that the sleeper had lain in a heavy stupor. Dr. Hartwell
put back the hand he held, and, stooping over, looked long and
anxiously at the flushed face. The breathing was deep and labored,
and, turning away, he slowly and noiselessly walked up and down the
floor. To have looked at him then, in his purple silk robe de
chambre, one would have scarcely believed that thirty years had
passed over his head. He was tall and broad-chested, his head
massive and well formed, his face a curious study. The brow was
expansive and almost transparent in its purity, the dark, hazel eyes
were singularly brilliant, while the contour of lips and chin was
partially concealed by a heavy mustache and board. The first glance
at his face impressed strangers by its extreme pallor, but in a
second look they were fascinated by the misty splendor of the eyes.
In truth, those were strange eyes of Guy Hartwell's. At times,
searching and glittering like polished steel; occasionally lighting
up with a dazzling radiance, and then as suddenly growing gentle,
hazy, yet luminous; resembling the clouded aspect of a star seen
through a thin veil of mist. His brown, curling hair was thrown back
from the face, and exposed the outline of the ample forehead.
Perhaps utilitarians would have carped at the feminine delicacy of
the hands, and certainly the fingers were slender and marvelously
white. On one hand he wore an antique ring, composed of a cameo
snake-head set round with diamonds. A proud, gifted, and miserable
man was Guy Hartwell, and his characteristic expression of stern
sadness might easily have been mistaken by casual observers for
bitter misanthropy.

I have said he was about thirty, and though the handsome face was
repellently cold and grave, it was difficult to believe that that
smooth, fair brow had been for so many years uplifted for the
handwriting of time. He looked just what he was, a baffling,
fascinating mystery. You felt that his countenance was a volume of
hieroglyphics which, could you decipher, would unfold the history of
a checkered and painful career. Yet the calm, frigid smile which sat
on his lip, and looked out defiantly from his deep-set eyes, seemed
to dare you to an investigation. Mere physical beauty cannot impart
the indescribable charm which his countenance possessed. Regularity
of features is a valuable auxiliary, but we look on sculptured
marble, perfect in its chiseled proportions, and feel that, after
all, the potent spell is in the raying out of the soul, that
imprisoned radiance which, in some instances, makes man indeed but
"little lower than the angels." He paused in his echoless tread, and
sat down once more beside his protegee. She had not changed her
position, and the long lashes lay heavily on the crimson cheeks. The
parched lips were parted, and, as he watched her, she murmured
aloud:

"It is so sweet, Lilly; we will stay here always." A shadowy smile
crossed her face, and then a great agony seemed to possess her, for
she moaned long and bitterly. He tried to arouse her, and, for the
first time since the night she entered his house, she opened her
eyes and gazed vacantly at him.

"Are you in pain, Beulah? Why do you moan so?"

"Eugene, I knew it would be so, when you left me."

"Don't you know me, Beulah?" He put his face close to hers.

"They killed her, Eugene! I told you they would; they are going to
bury her soon. But the grave can't hide her; I am going down with
her into the darkness--she would be frightened, you know." Making a
great effort, she sat upright. Dr. Hartwell put a glass containing
medicine to her lips; she shrank back and shuddered, then raised her
hand for the glass, and, looking fixedly at him, said: "Did Mrs.
Grayson say I must take it? Is it poison that kills quickly? There;
don't frown, Eugene, I will drink it all for you." She swallowed the
draught with a shiver. He laid her back on her pillow and renewed
the iced-cloth on her forehead; she did not move her burning eyes
from his face, and the refreshing coolness recalled the sad smile.
"Are we on the Alps, Eugene? I feel dizzy; don't let me fall. There
is a great chasm yonder. Oh, I know now; I am not afraid; Lilly is
down there--come on." Her arms drooped to her side, and she slept
again.

Evening shadows crept on; soon the room was dark. Harriet entered
with a shaded lamp, but her master motioned her out, and, throwing
open the blinds, suffered the pure moonlight to enter freely. The
window looked out on the flower garden, and the mingled fragrance of
roses, jasmines, honeysuckles, and dew-laden four-o'clocks enveloped
him as in a cloud of incense. A balmy moonlight June night in our
beautiful sunny South--who shall adequately paint its witchery? Dr.
Hartwell leaned his head against the window, and glanced down at the
parterre he had so fondly fostered. The golden moonlight mellowed
every object, and not the gorgeous pictures of Persian poets
surpassed the quiet scene that greeted the master. The shelled
serpentine walks were bordered with low, closely clipped cassina
hedges; clusters of white and rose oleander, scarlet geraniums,
roses of countless variety, beds of verbena of every hue, and
patches of brilliant annuals, all looked up smilingly at him. Just
beneath the window the clasping tendrils of a clematis were wound
about the pedestal of a marble Flora, and a cluster of the delicate
purple blossoms peeped through the fingers of the goddess. Further
off, a fountain flashed in the moonlight, murmuring musically in and
out of its reservoir, while the diamond spray bathed the sculptured
limbs of a Venus. The sea breeze sang its lullaby through the boughs
of a luxuriant orange tree near, and silence seemed guardian spirit
of the beautiful spot, when a whip-poor-will whirred through the
air, and, perching on the snowy brow of the Aphrodite, began his
plaintive night-hymn. In childhood Guy Hartwell had been taught by
his nurse to regard the melancholy chant as ominous of evil; but as
years threw their shadows over his heart, darkening the hopes of his
boyhood, the sad notes of the lonely bird became gradually soothing,
and now in the prime of life he loved to listen to the shy visitor,
and ceased to remember that it boded ill. With an ardent love for
the beautiful, in all its Protean phases, he enjoyed communion with
nature as only an imaginative, aesthetical temperament can. This
keen appreciation of beauty had been fostered by travel and study.
Over the vast studio of nature he had eagerly roamed; midnight had
seen him gazing enraptured on the loveliness of Italian scenery, and
found him watching the march of constellations from the lonely
heights of the Hartz; while the thunder tones of awful Niagara had
often hushed the tumults of his passionate heart, and bowed his
proud head in humble adoration. He had searched the storehouses of
art, and collected treasures that kindled divine aspirations in his
soul, and wooed him for a time from the cemetery of memory. With a
nature so intensely aesthetical, and taste so thoroughly cultivated,
he had, in a great measure, assimilated his home to the artistic
beau ideal. Now as he stood inhaling the perfumed air, he forgot the
little sufferer a few yards off--forgot that Azrail stood on the
threshold, beckoning her to brave the dark floods; and, as his whole
nature became permeated (so to speak) by the intoxicating beauty
that surrounded him, he extended his arms, and exclaimed
triumphantly:

"Truly thou art my mother, dear old earth! I feel that I am indeed
nearly allied to thy divine beauty! Starry nights, and whispering
winds, and fragrant flowers! yea, and even the breath of the
tempest! all, all are parts of my being."

"Guy, there is a messenger waiting at the door to see you. Some
patient requires prompt attendance." Mrs. Chilton stood near the
window, and the moonlight flashed over her handsome face. Her
brother frowned and motioned her away, but, smiling quietly, she put
her beautifully molded hand on his shoulder, and said:

"I am sorry I disturbed your meditations, but if you will practice--
"

"Who sent for me?"

"I really don't know."

"Will you be good enough to inquire?"

"Certainly." She glided gracefully from the room.

The whip-poor-will flew from his marble perch, and, as the mournful
tones died away, the master sighed, and returned to the bedside of
his charge. He renewed the ice on her brow, and soon after his
sister re-entered.

"Mr. Vincent is very sick, and you are wanted immediately."

"Very well." He crossed the room and rang the bell.

"Guy, are you sure that girl has not scarlet fever?"

"May, I have answered that question at least twice a day for nearly
a week."

"But you should sympathize with a mother's anxiety. I dread to
expose Pauline to danger."

"Then let her remain where she is."

"But I prefer having her come home, if I could feel assured that
girl has only brain fever."

"Then, once for all, there is no scarlet fever in the house."

He took a vial from his pocket, and poured a portion of its contents
into the glass, which he placed on a stand by Beulah's bed; then,
turning to Harriet, who had obeyed his summons, he directed her to
administer the medicine hourly.

"Guy, you may give your directions to me, for I shall stay with the
child to-night." As she spoke, she seated herself at the foot of the
bed.

"Harriet, hand me the candle in the hall." She did so; and, as her
master took it from her hand, he said abruptly:

"Tell Hal to bring my buggy round, and then you may go to bed. I
will ring if you are wanted." He waited until she was out of
hearing, and, walking up to his sister, held the candle so that the
light fell full upon her face.

"May, can I trust you?"

"Brother, you are cruelly unjust." She covered her face with her
lace handkerchief.

"Am I, indeed?"

"Yes, you wrong me hourly, with miserable suspicions. Guy, remember
that I have your blood in my veins, and it will not always tamely
bear insult, even from you." She removed the handkerchief, and shook
back her glossy curls, while her face grew still paler than was its
wont.

"Insult! May, can the unvarnished truth be such?"

They eyed each other steadily, and it was apparent that each iron
will was mated.

"Guy, you shall repent this."

"Perhaps so. You have made me repent many things."

"Do you mean to say that--"

"I mean to say, that since you have at last offered to assist in
nursing that unconscious child, I wish you to give the medicine
hourly. The last potion was at eight o'clock." He placed the candle
so as to shade the light from the sick girl, and left the room. Mrs.
Chilton sat for some time as he had left her with her head leaning
on her hand, her thoughts evidently perplexed and bitter. At
length she rose and stood close to Beulah, looking earnestly at her
emaciated face. She put her fingers on the burning temples and
wrist, and counted accurately the pulsations of the lava tide, then
bent her queenly head, and listened to the heavily drawn breathing.
A haughty smile lit her fine features as she said complacently: "A
mere tempest in a teacup. Pshaw, this girl will not mar my projects
long. By noon tomorrow she will be in eternity. I thought, the first
time I saw her ghostly face, she would trouble me but a short
season. What paradoxes men are! What on earth possessed Guy, with
his fastidious taste, to bring to his home such an ugly, wasted,
sallow little wretch? I verily believe, as a family, we are beset by
evil angels." Drawing out her watch, she saw that the hand had
passed nine. Raising the glass to her lips, she drank the quantity
prescribed for the sufferer, and was replacing it on the stand, when
Beulah's large, eloquent eyes startled her.

"Well, child, what do you want?" said she, trembling, despite her
assumed indifference. Beulah looked at her vacantly, then threw her
arms restlessly over the pillow, and slept again. Mrs. Chilton drew
up a chair, seated herself, and sank into a reverie of some length.
Ultimately she was aroused by perceiving her brother beside her, and
said hastily:

"How is Mr. Vincent? Not dangerously ill, I hope!"

"Tomorrow will decide that. It is now ten minutes past ten; how many
potions have you given?"

"Two," answered she firmly.

"Thank you, May. I will relieve you now. Good-night."

"But you are worn out, and I am not. Let me sit up. I will wake you
if any change occurs."

"Thank you, I prefer watching tonight. Take that candle, and leave
it on the table in the hall. I need nothing but moonlight. Leave the
door open." As the flickering light vanished, he threw himself into
the chair beside the bed.



CHAPTER VIII.


It was in the gray light of dawning day that Beulah awoke to
consciousness. For some moments after unclosing her eyes they
wandered inquiringly about the room, and finally rested on the tall
form of the watcher, as he stood at the open window. Gradually
memory gathered up its scattered links, and all the incidents of
that hour of anguish rushed vividly before her. The little table,
with its marble sleeper; then a dim recollection of having been
carried to a friendly shelter. Was it only yesterday evening, and
had she slept? The utter prostration which prevented her raising her
head, and the emaciated appearance of her hands, told her "no." Too
feeble even to think, she moaned audibly. Dr. Hartwell turned and
looked at her. The room was still in shadow, though the eastern sky
was flushed, and he stepped to the bedside. The fever had died out,
the cheeks were very pale, and the unnaturally large, sunken eyes
lusterless. She looked at him steadily, yet with perfect
indifference. He leaned over, and said eagerly:

"Beulah, do you know me?"

"Yes; I know you."

"How do you feel this morning?"

"I am very weak, and my head seems confused. How long have I been
here?"

"No matter, child, if you are better." He took out his watch, and,
after counting her pulse, prepared some medicine, and gave her a
potion. Her features twitched, and she asked tremblingly, as if
afraid of her own question:

"Have they buried her?"

"Yes; a week ago."

She closed her eyes with a groan, and her face became convulsed;
then she lay quite still, with a wrinkled brow. Dr. Hartwell sat
down by her, and, taking one of her wasted little hands in his, said
gently:

"Beulah, you have been very ill. I scarcely thought you would
recover; and now, though much better, you must not agitate yourself,
for you are far too weak to bear it."

"Why didn't you let me die? Oh, it would have been a mercy!" She put
her hand over her eyes, and a low cry wailed through the room.

"Because I wanted you to get well, and live here, and be my little
friend, my child. Now, Beulah, I have saved you, and you belong to
me. When you are stronger we will talk about all you want to know;
but to-day you must keep quiet, and not think of what distresses
you. Will you try?"

The strong, stern man shuddered, as she looked up at him with an
expression of hopeless desolation, and said slowly:

"I have nothing but misery to think of."

"Have you forgotten Eugene so soon?"

For an instant the eyes lighted up; then the long lashes swept her
cheeks, and she murmured:

"Eugene; he has left me too; something will happen to him also. I
never loved anything but trouble came upon it."

Dr. Hartwell smiled grimly, as though unconsciously she had turned
to view some page in the history of his own life.

"Beulah, you must not despond; Eugene will come back an elegant
young man before you are fairly out of short dresses. There, do not
talk any more, and don't cry. Try to sleep, and remember, child, you
are homeless and friendless no longer." He pressed her hand kindly,
and turned toward the door. It opened, and Mrs. Chilton entered.

"Good-morning, Guy; how is your patient?" said she blandly.

"Good-morning, May; my little patient is much better. She has been
talking to me, and I am going to send her some breakfast." He put
both hands on his sister's shoulders, and looked down into her
beautiful eyes. She did not flinch, but he saw a grayish hue settle
around her lips.

"Ah! I thought last night there was little hope of her recovery. You
are a wonderful doctor, Guy; almost equal to raising the dead." Her
voice was even, and, like his own, marvelously sweet.

"More wonderful still, May; I can read the living." His mustached
lip curled, as a scornful smile passed over his face.

"Read the living? Then you can understand and appreciate my pleasure
at this good news. Doubly good, because it secures Pauline's return
to-day. Dear child, I long to have her at home again." An expression
of anxious maternal solicitude crossed her features. Her brother
kept his hand on her shoulder, and as his eye fell on her glossy
auburn curls, he said, half musingly:

"Time touches you daintily, May; there is not one silver footprint
on your hair."

"He has dealt quite as leniently with you. But how could I feel the
inroads of time, shielded as I have been by your kindness? Cares and
sorrows bleach the locks oftener than accumulated years; and you,
Guy, have most kindly guarded your poor widowed sister."

"Have I indeed, May?"

"Ah! what would become of my Pauline and me, but for your
generosity, your--"

"Enough! Then, once for all, be kind to yonder sick child; if not
for her sake, for your own. You and Pauline can aid me in making her
happy, if you will. And if not, remember, May, you know my nature.
Do not disturb Beulah now; come down and let her be quiet." He led
her down the steps, and then, throwing open a glass door, stepped
out upon a terrace covered with Bermuda grass and sparkling like a
tiara in the early sunlight. Mrs. Chilton watched him descend the
two white marble steps leading down to the flower beds, and, leaning
against the wall, she muttered:

"It cannot be possible that that miserable beggar is to come between
Pauline and his property! Is he mad, to dream of making that little
outcast his heiress? Yet he meant it; I saw it in his eye; the
lurking devil that has slumbered since that evening, and that I
hoped would never gleam out at me again. Oh! we are a precious
family. Set the will of one against another, and all Pandemonium
can't crush either! Ten to one, Pauline will lose her wits too, and
be as hard to manage as Guy." Moody and perplexed, she walked on to
the dining room. Beulah had fallen into a heavy slumber of
exhaustion, and it was late in the day when she again unclosed her
eyes. Harriet sat sewing near her, but soon perceived that she was
awake, and immediately put aside her work.

"Aha! so you have come to your senses again, have you? How are you,
child?"

"I am weak."

"Which isn't strange, seeing that you haven't eat a teaspoonful in
more than a week. Now, look here, little one; I am ordered to nurse
and take charge of you till you are strong enough to look out for
yourself. So you must not object to anything I tell you to do."
Without further parley, she washed and wiped Beulah's face and
hands, shook up the pillows, and placed her comfortably on them. To
the orphan, accustomed all her life to wait upon others, there was
something singularly novel in being thus carefully handled; and,
nestling her head close to the pillows, she shut her eyes, lest the
tears that were gathering should become visible. Harriet quitted the
room for a short time, and returned with a salver containing some
refreshments.

"I can't eat anything. Thank you; but take it away." Beulah put her
hands over her face, but Harriet resolutely seated herself on the
side of the bed, lifted her up, and put a cup of tea to the
quivering lips.

"It is no use talking; master said you had to eat, and you might
just as well do it at once. Poor thing! you are hiding your eyes to
cry. Well, drink this tea and eat a little; you must, for folks
can't live forever without eating." There was no alternative, and
Beulah swallowed what was given her. Harriet praised her obedient
spirit, and busied herself about the room for some time. Finally,
stooping over the bed, she said abruptly:

"Honey, are you crying?"

There was no reply, and, kneeling down, she said cautiously:

"If you knew as much about this family as I do, you would cry, sure
enough, for something. My master says he has adopted you, and since
he has said it, everything will work for good to you. But, child,
there will come times when you need a friend besides master, and be
sure you come to me when you do. I won't say any more now; but
remember what I tell you when you get into trouble. Miss Pauline has
come, and if she happens to take a fancy to you (which I think she
won't), she will stand by you till the stars fall; and if she don't,
she will hate you worse than Satan himself for--" Harriet did not
complete the sentence, for she detected her master's step in the
passage, and resumed her work.

"How is she?"

"She did not eat much, sir, and seems so downhearted."

"That will do. I will ring when you are needed."

Dr. Hartwell seated himself on the edge of the bed, and, lifting the
child's head to his bosom, drew away the hands that shaded her face.

"Beulah, are you following my directions?"

"Oh, sir! you are very kind; but I am too wretched, too miserable,
even to thank you."

"I do not wish you to thank me. All I desire is that you will keep
quiet for a few days, till you grow strong, and not lie here sobbing
yourself into another fever. I know you have had a bitter lot in
life so far, and memories are all painful with you; but it is better
not to dwell upon the past. Ah, child! it is well to live only in
the present, looking into the future. I promise you I will guard
you, and care for you as tenderly as a father; and now, Beulah, I
think you owe it to me to try to be cheerful."

He passed his fingers softly over her forehead, and put back the
tangled masses of jetty hair, which long neglect had piled about her
face. The touch of his cool hand, the low, musical tones of his
voice, were very soothing to the weary sufferer, and, with a great
effort, she looked up into the deep, dark eyes. saying brokenly:

"Oh, sir, how good you are! I am--very grateful--to you--indeed, I--
"

"There, my child, do not try to talk; only trust me, and be
cheerful. It is a pleasure to me to have you here, and know that you
will always remain in my house."

How long he sat there, she never knew, for soon she slept, and when
hours after she waked, the lamp was burning dimly, and only Harriet
was in the room. A week passed, and the girl saw no one except the
nurse and physician. One sunny afternoon she looped back the white
curtains, and sat down before the open window. Harriet had dressed
her in a blue calico wrapper, which made her wan face still more
ghastly, and the folds of black hair, which the gentle fingers of
the kind nurse had disentangled, lay thick about her forehead, like
an ebon wreath on the brow of a statue. Her elbows rested on the
arms of the easy-chair, and the weary head leaned upon the hands.
Before her lay the flower garden, brilliant and fragrant; further on
a row of Lombardy poplars bounded the yard, and beyond the street
stretched the west common. In the distance rose a venerable brick
building, set, as it were, in an emerald lawn, and Beulah looked
only once, and knew it vas the asylum. It was the first time she had
seen it since her exodus, and the long-sealed fountain could no
longer be restrained. Great hot tears fell over the bent face, and
the frail form trembled violently. For nearly fourteen years that
brave spirit had battled, and borne, and tried to hope for better
things. With more than ordinary fortitude, she had resigned herself
to the sorrows that came thick and fast upon her, and, trusting in
the eternal love and goodness of God, had looked to him for relief
and reward. But the reward came not in the expected way. Hope died;
faith fainted; and bitterness and despair reigned in that once
loving and gentle soul. Her father had not been spared in answer to
her frantic prayers. Lilly had been taken, without even the sad
comfort of a farewell, and now, with the present full of anguish,
and the future shrouded in dark forebodings, she sobbed aloud:

"All alone! All alone! Oh, father! Oh, Lilly, Lilly!"

"Do pray, chile, don't take on so; you will fret yourself sick
again," said Harriet, compassionately patting the drooped head.

"Don't talk to me--don't speak to me!" cried Beulah passionately.

"Yes; but I was told not to let you grieve yourself to death, and
you are doing your best. Why don't you put your trust in the Lord?"

"I did, and he has forgotten me."

"No, chile. He forgets not even the little snow-birds. I expect you
wanted to lay down the law for him, and are not willing to wait
until he sees fit to bless you. Isn't it so?"

"He never can give me back my dead."

"But he can raise up other friends for you, and he has. It is a
blessed thing to have my master for a friend and a protector. Think
of living always in a place like this, with plenty of money, and
nothing to wish for. Chile, you don't know how lucky--"

She paused, startled by ringing' peals of laughter, which seemed to
come from the adjoining passage. Sounds of mirth fell torturingly
upon Beulah's bleeding spirit, and she pressed her fingers tightly
over her ears. Just opposite to her sat the old trunk, which, a
fortnight before, she had packed for her journey up the river. The
leathern face seemed to sympathize with her woe, and, kneeling down
on the floor, she wound her arms caressingly over it.

"Bless the girl! she hugs that ugly, old-fashioned thing as if it
were kin to her," said Harriet, who sat sewing at one of the
windows.

Beulah raised the lid, and there lay her clothes, the books Eugene
had given her; two or three faded, worn-out garments of Lilly's, and
an old Bible. The tears froze in her eyes, as she took out the last,
and opened it at the ribbon mark. These words greeted her: "Whom the
Lord loveth, he chasteneth." Again and again she read them, and the
crushed tendrils of trust feebly twined once more about the promise.
As she sat there, wondering why suffering and sorrow always fell on
those whom the Bible calls "blessed," and trying to explain the
paradox, the door was thrown rudely open, and a girl about her own
age sprang into the room, quickly followed by Mrs. Chilton.

"Let me alone, mother. I tell you I mean to see her, and then you
are welcome to me as long as you please. Ah, is that her?"

The speaker paused in the center of the apartment, and gazed
curiously at the figure seated before the old trunk. Involuntarily
Beulah raised her eyes, and met the searching look fixed upon her.
The intruder was richly dressed, and her very posture bespoke the
lawless independence of a willful, petted child. The figure was
faultlessly symmetrical, and her face radiantly beautiful. The
features were clearly cut and regular, the eyes of deep, dark violet
hue, shaded by curling brown lashes. Her chestnut hair was thrown
back with a silver comb, and fell in thick curls below the waist;
her complexion was of alabaster clearness, and cheeks and lips wore
the coral bloom of health. As they confronted each other one looked
a Hebe, the other a ghostly visitant from spirit realms. Beulah
shrank from the eager scrutiny, and put up her hands to shield her
face. The other advanced a few steps, and stood beside her. The
expression of curiosity faded, and something like compassion swept
over the stranger's features, as she noted the thin, drooping form
of the invalid. Her lips parted, and she put out her hand, as if to
address Beulah, when Mrs. Chilton exclaimed impatiently:

"Pauline, come down this instant! Your uncle positively forbade your
entering this room until he gave you permission. There is his buggy
this minute! Come out, I say!" She laid her hand in no gentle manner
on her daughter's arm.

"Oh, sink the buggy! What do I care if he does catch me here? I
shall stay till I make up my mind whether that little thing is a
ghost or not. So, mother, let me alone." She shook off the clasping
hand that sought to drag her away, and again fixed her attention on
Beulah.

"Willful girl! you will ruin everything yet. Pauline, follow me
instantly, I command you!" She was white with rage, but the daughter
gave no intimation of having heard the words; and, throwing her arm
about the girl's waist, Mrs. Chilton dragged her to the door. There
was a brief struggle at the threshold, and then both stood quiet
before the master of the house.

"What is all this confusion about? I ordered this portion of the
house kept silent, did I not?"

"Yes, Guy; and I hope you will forgive Pauline's thoughtlessness.
She blundered in here, and I have just been scolding her for
disobeying your injunctions."

"Uncle Guy, it was not thoughtlessness, at all; I came on purpose.
For a week I have been nearly dying with curiosity to see that
little skeleton you have shut up here, and I ran up to get a glimpse
of her. I don't see the harm of it; I haven't hurt her." Pauline
looked fearlessly up in her uncle's face, and planted herself firmly
in the door, as if resolved not to be ejected.

"Does this house belong to you or to me, Pauline?"

"To you, now; to me, some of these days, when you give it to me for
a bridal present."

His brow cleared, he looked kindly down into the frank, truthful
countenance, and said, with a half-smile:

"Do not repeat your voyage of discovery, or perhaps your bridal
anticipations may prove an egregious failure. Do you understand me?"

"I have not finished the first. Mother played pirate, and carried me
off before I was half satisfied. Uncle Guy, take me under your flag,
do! I will not worry the little thing--I promise you I will not.
Can't I stay here a while?" He smiled, and put his hand on her head,
saying:

"I am inclined to try you. May, you can leave her here. I will send
her to you after a little." As he spoke, he drew her up to the
orphan. Beulah looked at them an instant, then averted her head.

"Beulah, this is my niece, Pauline Chilton; and, Pauline, this is my
adopted child, Beulah Benton. You are about the same age, and can
make each other happy, if you will. Beulah, shake hands with my
niece." She put up her pale, slender fingers, and they were promptly
clasped in Pauline's plump palm.

"Do stop crying, and look at me. I want to see you," said the
latter.

"I am not crying."

"Then what are you hiding your face for?"

"Because it is so ugly," answered the orphan sadly.

Pauline stooped down, took the head in her hands, and turned the
features to view. She gave them a searching examination, and then,
looking up at her uncle, said bluntly:

"She is not pretty, that is a fact; but, somehow, I rather like her.
If she did not look so doleful, and had some blood in her lips, she
would pass well enough; don't you think so?"

Dr. Hartwell did not reply; but, raising Beulah from the floor,
placed her in the chair she had vacated some time before. She did,
indeed, look "doleful," as Pauline expressed it, and the beaming,
lovely face of the latter rendered her wan aspect more apparent.

"What have you been doing all day?" said the doctor kindly.

She pointed to the asylum, and answered in a low, subdued tone:

"Thinking about my past life--all my misfortunes."

"You promised you would do so no more."

"Ah, sir! how can I help it?"

"Why, think of something pleasant, of course," interrupted Pauline.

"You never had any sorrows; you know nothing of suffering," replied
Beulah, allowing her eyes to dwell on the fine, open countenance
before her--a mirthful, sunny face, where waves of grief had never
rippled.

"How came you so wise? I have troubles sometimes, just like everbody
else."

Beulah shook her head dubiously.

"Pauline, will you try to cheer this sad little stranger? will you
be always kind in your manner, and remember that her life has not
been as happy as yours? Can't you love her?"

She shrugged her shoulders, and answered evasively:

"I dare say we will get on well enough, if she will only quit
looking so dismal and graveyardish. I don't know about loving her;
we shall see."

"You can go down to your mother now," said he gravely.

"That means you are tired of me, Uncle Guy!" cried she, saucily
shaking her curls over her face.

"Yes, heartily tired of you; take yourself off."

"Good-by, shadow; I shall come to see you again to-morrow." She
reached the door, but looked back.

"Uncle, have you seen Charon since you came home?"

"No."

"Well, he will die if you don't do something for him. It is a shame
to forget him as you do!" said she indignantly.

"Attend to your own affairs, and do not interfere with mine."

"It is high time somebody interfered. Poor Charon! If Hal doesn't
take better care of him, I will make his mother box his ears; see if
I don't."

She bounded down the steps, leaving her uncle to smooth his brow at
leisure. Turning to Beulah, he took her hand, and said very kindly:

"This large room does not suit you. Come, and I will show you your
own little room--one I have had arranged for you." She silently
complied, and, leading her through several passages, he opened the
door of the apartment assigned her. The walls were covered with blue
and silver paper; the window curtains of white, faced with blue,
matched it well, and every article of furniture bespoke lavish and
tasteful expenditure. There was a small writing-desk near a handsome
case of books, and a little work-table with a rocking-chair drawn up
to it. He seated Beulah, and stood watching her, as her eyes
wandered curiously and admiringly around the room. They rested on a
painting suspended over the desk, and, wrapt in contemplating the
design, she forgot for a moment all her sorrows. It represented an
angelic figure winging its way over a valley beclouded and dismal,
and pointing, with a radiant countenance, to the gilded summit of a
distant steep. Below, bands of pilgrims, weary and worn, toiled on;
some fainting by the wayside, some seated in sullen despair, some in
the attitude of prayer, some pressing forward with strained gaze and
pale, haggard faces.

"Do you like it?" said Dr. Hartwell.

Perhaps she did not hear him; certainly she did not heed the
question; and, taking a seat near one of the windows, he regarded
her earnestly. Her eyes were fastened on the picture, and, raising
her hands toward it, she said in broken, indistinct tones:

"I am dying down in the dark valley; oh, come, help me to toil on to
the resting-place."

Her head sank upon her bosom, and bitter waves lashed her heart once
more.

Gradually evening shadows crept on, and at length a soft hand lifted
her face, and a musical voice said:

"Beulah, I want you to come down to my study and make my tea. Do you
feel strong enough?"

"Yes, sir." She rose at once and followed him, resolved to seem
cheerful.

The study was an oblong room, and on one side book-shelves rose
almost to the ceiling. The opposite wall, between the windows, was
covered with paintings, and several statues stood in the recesses
near the chimney. Over the low marble mantelpiece hung a full-length
portrait, shrouded with black crape, and underneath was an
exquisitely chased silver case, containing a small Swiss clock. A
beautiful terra-cotta vase, of antique shape, stood on the hearth,
filled with choice and fragrant flowers, and near the window sat an
elegant rosewood melodeon. A circular table occupied the middle of
the room, and here the evening meal was already arranged. Beulah
glanced timidly around as her conductor seated her beside the urn,
and, seeing only cups for two persons, asked hesitatingly:

"Shall I make your tea now?"

"Yes; and remember, Beulah, I shall expect you to make it every
evening at this hour. Breakfast and dinner I take with my sister and
Pauline in the dining room, but my evenings are always spent here.
There, make another cup for yourself."

A long silence ensued. Dr. Hartwell seemed lost in reverie, for he
sat with his eyes fixed on the tablecloth, and his head resting on
his hand. His features resumed their habitual expression of stern
rigidity, and as Beulah looked at him she could scarcely believe
that he was the same kind friend who had been so gentle and fatherly
in his manner. Intuitively she felt then that she had to deal with a
chaotic, passionate, and moody nature, and, as she marked the
knitting of his brows and the iron compression of his lips, her
heart was haunted by grave forebodings. While she sat pondering his
haughty, impenetrable appearance, a servant entered.

"Sir, there is a messenger at the door."

His master started slightly, pushed away his cup, and said:

"Is the buggy ready?"

"Yes, sir; waiting at the door--"

"Very well; I am coming."

The windows opened down to the floor, and led into a vine-covered
piazza. He stepped up to one and stood a moment, as if loath to quit
his sanctum; then, turning round, addressed Beulah:

"Ah, child, I had almost forgotten you. It is time you were asleep.
Do you know the way back to your room?"

"I can find it," said she, rising from the table.

"Good-night; let me see you at breakfast if you feel strong enough
to join us."

He opened the door for her, and, hurrying out, Beulah found her own
room without difficulty. Walking up to Harriet, whom she saw waiting
for her, she said in a grave, determined manner:

"You have been very kind to me since I came here, and I feel
grateful to you; but I have not been accustomed to have someone
always waiting on me, and in future I shall not want you. I can
dress myself without any assistance, so you need not come to me
night and morning."

"I am obeying master's orders. He said I was to 'tend to you,"
answered Harriet, wondering at the independent spirit evinced by the
newcomer.

"I do not want any tending, so you may leave me, if you please."

"Haven't you been here long enough to find out that you might as
well fight the waves of the sea as my master's will? Take care,
child, how you begin to countermand his orders, for I tell you now
there are some in this house who will soon make it a handle to turn
you out into the world again. Mind what I say."

"Do you mean that I am not wanted here?"

"I mean, keep your eyes open." Harriet vanished in the dark passage,
and Beulah locked the door, feeling that now she was indeed alone,
and could freely indulge the grief that had so long sought to veil
itself from curious eyes. Yet there was no disposition to cry. She
sat down on the bed and mused on the strange freak of fortune which
had so suddenly elevated the humble nurse into the possessor of that
elegantly furnished apartment. There was no elation in the quiet
wonder with which she surveyed the change in her position. She did
not belong there, she had no claim on the master of the house, and
she felt that she was trespassing on the rights of the beautiful
Pauline. Rapidly plans for the future were written in firm resolve.
She would thankfully remain under the roof that had so kindly
sheltered her, until she could qualify herself to teach. She would
ask Dr. Hartwell to give her an education, which, once obtained,
would enable her to repay its price. To her proud nature there was
something galling in the thought of dependence, and, throwing
herself on her knees for the first time in several weeks, she
earnestly besought the God of orphans to guide and assist her.



CHAPTER IX.


"Do you wish her to commence school at once?"

"Not until her wardrobe has been replenished. I expect her clothes
to be selected and made just as Pauline's are. Will you attend to
this business, or shall I give directions to Harriet?"

"Certainly, Guy; I can easily arrange it. You intend to dress her
just as I do Pauline?"

"As nearly as possible. Next week I wish her to begin school with
Pauline, and Hansell will give her music lessons. Be so good as to
see about her clothes immediately."

Dr. Hartwell drew on his gloves and left the room. His sister
followed him to the door, where his buggy awaited him.

"Guy, did you determine about that little affair for Pauline? She
has so set her heart on it."

"Oh, do as you please, May; only I am--"

"Stop, Uncle Guy! Wait a minute. May I have a birthday party? May
I?" Almost out of breath, Pauline ran up the steps; her long hair
floating over her face, which exercise had flushed to crimson.

"You young tornado! Look how you have crushed that cluster of
heliotrope, rushing over the flower-beds as if there were no walks."
He pointed with the end of his whip to a drooping spray of purple
blossoms.

"Yes; but there are plenty more. I say, may I?--may I?" She eagerly
caught hold of his coat.

"How long before your birthday?"

"Just a week from to-day. Do, please, let me have a frolic!"

"Poor child! you look as if you needed some relaxation," said he,
looking down into her radiant face, with an expression of mock
compassion.

"Upon my word, Uncle Guy, it is awfully dull here. If it were not
for Charon and Mazeppa I should be moped to death. Do, pray, don't
look at me as if you were counting the hairs in my eyelashes. Come,
say yes: do, Uncle Guy."

"Take your hands off of my coat, and have as many parties as you
like, provided you keep to your own side of the house. Don't come
near my study with your Babel, and don't allow your company to
demolish my flowers. Mind, not a soul is to enter the greenhouse.
The parlors are at your service, but I will not have a regiment of
wildcats tearing up and down my greenhouse and flower garden; mind
that." He stepped into his buggy.

"Bravo! I have won my wager, and got the party too! Hugh Cluis bet
me a papier-mache writing-desk that you would not give me a party.
When I send his invitation I will write on the envelope 'the
writing-desk is also expected.' Hey, shadow, where did you creep
from?" She fixed her merry eyes on Beulah, who just then appeared on
the terrace. Dr. Hartwell leaned from the buggy, and looked
earnestly at the quiet little figure.

"Do you want anything, Beulah?"

"No, sir; I thought you had gone. May I open the gate for you?"

"Certainly, if you wish to do something for me." His pale features
relaxed, and his whole face lighted up, like a sun-flushed cloud.

Beulah walked down the avenue, lined on either side with venerable
poplars and cedars, and opened the large gate leading into the city.
He checked his horse, and said:

"Thank you, my child. Now, how are you going to spend the day?
Remember you commence with school duties next week; so make the best
of your holiday."

"I have enough to occupy me to-day. Good-by, sir."

"Good-by, for an hour or so." He smiled kindly and drove on, while
she walked slowly back to the house, wondering why smiles were such
rare things in this world, when they cost so little, and yet are so
very valuable to mourning hearts. Pauline sat on the steps with an
open book in her hand. She looked up as Beulah approached, and
exclaimed gayly:

"Aren't you glad I am to have my birthday frolic?"

"Yes; I am glad on your account," answered Beulah gravely.

"Can you dance all the fancy dances? I don't like any so well as the
mazourka."

"I do not dance at all."

"Don't dance! Why, I have danced ever since I was big enough to
crawl! What have you been doing all your life, that you don't know
how to dance?"

"My feet have had other work to do," replied her companion; and, as
the recollections of her early childhood flitted before her, the
brow darkened.

"I suppose that is one reason you look so forlorn all the time. I
will ask Uncle Guy to send you to the dancing school for--"

"Pauline, it is school-time, and you don't know one word of that
Quackenbos; I would be ashamed to start from home as ignorant of my
lessons as you are." Mrs. Chilton's head was projected from the
parlor window, and the rebuke was delivered in no very gentle tone.

"Oh, I don't mind it at all; I have got used to it," answered the
daughter, tossing up the book as she spoke.

"Get ready for school this minute!"

Pauline scampered into the house for her bonnet and sachel; and,
fixing her eyes upon Beulah, Mrs. Chilton asked sternly:

"What are you doing out there? What did you follow my brother to the
gate for? Answer me!"

"I merely opened the gate for him," replied the girl, looking
steadily up at the searching eyes.

"There was a servant with him to do that. In future don't make
yourself so conspicuous. You must keep away from the flower beds
too. The doctor wishes no one prowling about them; he gave
particular directions that no one should go there in his absence."

They eyed each other an instant; then, drawing up her slender form
to its utmost height, Beulah replied proudly:

"Be assured, madam, I shall not trespass on forbidden ground!"

"Very well." The lace curtains swept back to their place--the fair
face was withdrawn.

"She hates me," thought Beulah, walking on to her own room; "she
hates me, and certainly I do not love her. I shall like Pauline very
much, but her mother and I never will get on smoothly. What freezing
eyes she has, and what a disagreeable look there is about her mouth
whenever she sees me! She wishes me to remember all the time that I
am poor, and that she is the mistress of this elegant house. Ah, I
am not likely to forget it!" The old smile of bitterness crossed her
face.

The days passed swiftly. Beulah spent most of her time in her own
room, for Dr. Hartwell was sometimes absent all day, and she longed
to escape his sister's icy espionage. When he was at home, and not
engaged in his study, his manner was always kind and considerate;
but she fancied he was colder and graver, and often his stern
abstraction kept her silent when they were together. Monday was the
birthday, and on Monday morning she expected to start to school.
Madam St. Cymon's was the fashionable institution of the city, and
thither, with Pauline, she was destined. Beulah rose early, dressed
herself carefully, and, after reading a chapter in her Bible, and
asking God's special guidance through the day, descended to the
breakfast room. Dr. Hartwell sat reading a newspaper; he did not
look up, and she quietly seated herself unobserved. Presently Mrs.
Chilton entered and walked up to her brother.

"Good-morning, Guy. Are there no tidings of that vessel yet? I hear
the Grahams are terribly anxious about it. Cornelia said her father
was unable to sleep."

"No news yet; but, May, be sure you do not let--"

"Was it the 'Morning Star'? Is he lost?"

Beulah stood crouching at his side, with her hands extended
pleadingly, and her white face convulsed.

"My child, do not look so wretched; the vessel that Eugene sailed in
was disabled in a storm, and has not yet reached the place of
destination. But there are numerous ways of accounting for the
detention, and you must hope and believe that all is well until you
know the contrary." He drew her to his side, and stroked her head
compassionately.

"I knew it would be so," said she, in a strangely subdued,
passionless tone.

"What do you mean, child?"

"Death and trouble come on everything I love."

"Perhaps at this very moment Eugene may be writing you an account of
his voyage. I believe that we shall soon hear of his safe arrival.
You need not dive down into my eyes in that way. I do believe it,
for the vessel was seen after the storm, and, though far out of the
right track, there is good reason to suppose she has put into some
port to be repaired."

Beulah clasped her hands over her eyes, as if to shut out some
horrid phantom, and, while her heart seemed dying on the rack, she
resolved not to despair till the certainty came.

"Time enough when there is no hope; I will not go out to meet
sorrow." With a sudden, inexplicable revulsion of feeling she sank
on her knees, and there beside her protector vehemently prayed
Almighty God to guard and guide the tempest-tossed loved one. If her
eyes had rested on the face of Deity, and she had felt his presence,
her petition could not have been more importunately preferred. For a
few moments Dr. Hartwell regarded her curiously; then his brow
darkened, his lips curled sneeringly, and a mocking smile passed
over his face. Mrs. Chilton smiled, too, but there was a peculiar
gleam in her eyes, and an uplifting of her brows which denoted
anything but pleasurable emotions. She moved away, and sat down at
the head of the table. Dr. Hartwell put his hand on the shoulder of
the kneeling girl, and asked, rather abruptly:

"Beulah, do you believe that the God you pray to hears you?"

"I do. He has promised to answer prayer."

"Then, get up and be satisfied, and eat your breakfast. You have
asked him to save and protect Eugene, and, according to the Bible,
He will certainly do it; so no more tears. If you believe in your
God, what are you looking so wretched about?" There was something in
all this that startled Beulah, and she looked up at him. His chilly
smile pained her, and she rose quickly, while again and again his
words rang in her ear. Yet, what was there so strange about this
application of faith? True, the Bible declared that "whatsoever ye
ask, believing, that ye shall receive," yet she had often prayed for
blessings, and often been denied. Was it because she had not had the
requisite faith, which should have satisfied her? Yet God knew that
she had trusted him. With innate quickness of perception, she
detected the tissued veil of irony which the doctor had wrapped
about his attempted consolation, and she looked at him so intently,
so piercingly, that he hastily turned away and seated himself at the
table. Just then Pauline bounded into the room, exclaiming:

"Fourteen to-day! Only three more years at school, and then I shall
step out a brilliant young lady, the--"

"There; be quiet; sit down. I would almost as soon select a small
whirlwind for a companion. Can't you learn to enter a room without
blustering like a March wind or a Texan norther?" asked her uncle.

"Have you all seen a ghost? You look as solemn as grave-diggers.
What ails you, Beulah? Come along to breakfast. How nice you look in
your new clothes!" Her eyes ran over the face and form of the
orphan.

"Pauline, hush! and eat your breakfast. You annoy your uncle," said
her mother severely.

"Oh, do, for gracious' sake, let me talk! I feel sometimes as if I
should suffocate. Everything about this house is so demure, and
silent, and solemn, and Quakerish, and hatefully prim. If ever I
have a house of my own, I mean to paste in great letters over the
doors and windows, 'Laughing and talking freely allowed!' This is my
birthday, and I think I might stay at home. Mother, don't forget to
have the ends of my sash fringed, and the tops of my gloves
trimmed." Draining her small china cup, she sprang up from the
table, but paused beside Beulah.

"By the by, what are you going to wear to-night, Beulah?"

"I shall not go into the parlors at all," answered the latter.

"Why not?" said Dr. Hartwell, looking suddenly up. He met the sad,
suffering expression of the gray eyes, and bit his lip with
vexation. She saw that he understood her feelings, and made no
reply.

"I shall not like it, if you don't come to my party," said Pauline
slowly; and as she spoke she took one of the orphan's hands.

"You are very kind, Pauline; but I do not wish to see strangers."

"But you never will know anybody if you make such a nun of yourself.
Uncle Guy, tell her she must come down into the parlors to-night."

"Not unless she wishes to do so. But, Pauline, I am very glad that
you have shown her you desire her presence." He put his hand on her
curly head, and looked with more than usual affection at the bright,
honest face.

"Beulah, you must get ready for school. Come down as soon as you
can. Pauline will be waiting for you." Mrs. Chilton spoke in the
calm, sweet tone peculiar to her and her brother, but to Beulah
there was something repulsive in that even voice, and she hurried
from the sound of it. Kneeling beside her bed, she again implored
the Father to restore Eugene to her, and, crushing her grief and
apprehension down into her heart, she resolved to veil it from
strangers. As she walked on by Pauline's side, only the excessive
paleness of her face and drooping of her eyelashes betokened her
suffering.

Entering school is always a disagreeable ordeal, and to a sensitive
nature, such as Beulah's, it was torturing. Madam St. Cymon was a
good-natured, kind, little body, and received her with a warmth and
cordiality which made amends in some degree for the battery of eyes
she was forced to encounter.

"Ah, yes! the doctor called to see me about you--wants you to take
the Latin course. For the present, my dear, you will sit with Miss
Sanders. Clara, take this young lady with you."

The girl addressed looked at least sixteen years of age, and, rising
promptly, she come forward and led Beulah to a seat at her desk,
which was constructed for two persons. The touch of her fingers sent
a thrill through Beulah's frame, and she looked at her very
earnestly.

Clara Sanders was not a beauty in the ordinary acceptation of the
term, but there was an expression of angelic sweetness and purity in
her countenance which fascinated the orphan. She remarked the
scrutiny of the young stranger, and, smiling good-humoredly, said,
as she leaned over and arranged the desk:

"I am glad to have you with me, and dare say we shall get on very
nicely together. You look ill."

"I have been ill recently and have not yet regained my strength. Can
you tell me where I can find some water? I feel rather faint."

Her companion brought her a glass of water. She drank it eagerly,
and, as Clara resumed her seat, said in a low voice:

"Oh, thank you! You are very kind."

"Not at all. If you feel worse you must let me know." She turned to
her books and soon forgot the presence of the newcomer.

The latter watched her, and noticed now that she was dressed in deep
mourning. Was she too an orphan, and had this circumstance rendered
her so kindly sympathetic? The sweet, gentle face, with its soft,
brown eyes, chained her attention, and in the shaping of the mouth
there was something very like Lilly's. Soon Clara left her for
recitation, and then she turned to the new books which madam had
sent to her desk. Thus passed the morning, and she started when the
recess bell rang its summons through the long room. Bustle, chatter,
and confusion ensued. Pauline called to her to come into lunchroom,
and touched her little basket as she spoke, but Beulah shook her
head and kept her seat. Clara also remained.

"Pauline is calling you," said she gently.

"Yes, I hear; but I do not want anything." And Beulah rested her
head on her hands.

"Don't you feel better than you did this morning?"

"Oh, I am well enough in body; a little weak, that is all."

"You look quite tired. Suppose you lean your head against me and
take a short nap?"

"You are very good indeed; but I am not at all sleepy."

Clara was engaged in drawing, and, looking on, Beulah became
interested in the progress of the sketch. Suddenly a hand was placed
over the paper, and a tall, handsome girl, with black eyes and
sallow complexion, exclaimed sharply:

"For Heaven's sake, Clara Sanders, do you expect to swim into the
next world on a piece of drawing-paper? Come over to my seat and
work out that eighth problem for me. I have puzzled over it all the
morning, and can't get it right."

"I can show you here quite as well." Taking out her Euclid, she
found and explained the obstinate problem.

"Thank you! I cannot endure mathematics, but father is bent upon my
being 'thorough,' as he calls it. I think it is all thorough
nonsense. Now, with you it is very different; you expect to be a
teacher, and of course will have to acquire all these branches; but
for my part I see no use in it. I shall be rejoiced when this dull
school-work is over."

"Don't say that, Cornelia; I think our school days are the happiest,
and feel sad when I remember that mine are numbered."

Here the bell announced recess over, and Cornelia moved away to her
seat. A trembling hand sought Clara's arm.

"Is that Cornelia Graham?"

"Yes. Is she not very handsome?"

Beulah made no answer; she only remembered that this girl was
Eugene's adopted sister, and, looking after the tall, queenly form,
she longed to follow her and ask all the particulars of the storm.
Thus ended the first dreaded day at school, and, on reaching home,
Beulah threw herself on her bed with a low, wailing cry. The long-
pent sorrow must have vent, and she sobbed until weariness sank her
into a heavy sleep.

Far out in a billowy sea, strewed with wrecks, and hideous with the
ghastly, upturned faces of floating corpses, she and Eugene were
drifting--now clinging to each other--now tossed asunder by howling
waves. Then came a glimmering sail on the wide waste of waters; a
little boat neared them, and Lilly leaned over the side and held out
tiny, dimpled hands to lift them in. They were climbing out of their
watery graves, and Lilly's long, fair curls already touched their
cheeks, when a strong arm snatched Lilly back, and struck them down
into the roaring gulf, and above the white faces of the drifting
dead stood Mrs. Grayson, sailing away with Lilly struggling in her
arms. Eugene was sinking and Beulah could not reach him; he held up
his arms imploringly toward her, and called upon her to save him,
and then his head with its wealth of silken, brown locks
disappeared. She ceased to struggle; she welcomed drowning now that
he had gone to rest among coral temples. She sank down--down. The
rigid corpses were no longer visible. She was in an emerald palace,
and myriads of rosy shells paved the floors. At last she found
Eugene reposing on a coral bank, and playing with pearls; she
hastened to join him, and was just taking his hand when a horrible
phantom, seizing him in its arms, bore him away, and, looking in its
face, she saw that it was Mrs. Chilton. With a wild scream of
terror, Beulah awoke. She was lying across the foot of the bed, and
both hands were thrown up, grasping the post convulsively. The room
was dark, save where the moonlight crept through the curtains and
fell slantingly on the picture of Hope and the Pilgrims, and by that
dim light she saw a tall form standing near her.

"Were you dreaming, Beulah, that you shrieked so wildly?"

The doctor lifted her up, and leaned her head against his shoulder.

"Oh, Dr. Hartwell, I have had a horrible, horrible dream!" She
shuddered, and clung to him tightly, as if dreading it might still
prove a reality.

"Poor child! Come with me, and I will try to exorcise this evil
spirit which haunts even your slumbers."

Keeping her hand in his, he led her down to his study, and seated
her on a couch drawn near the window. The confused sound of many
voices and the tread of dancing feet, keeping time to a band of
music, came indistinctly from the parlors. Dr. Hartwell closed the
door, to shut out the unwelcome sounds, and, seating himself before
the melodeon, poured a flood of soothing, plaintive melody upon the
air. Beulah sat entranced, while he played on and on, as if
unconscious of her presence. Her whole being was inexpressibly
thrilled; and, forgetting her frightful vision, her enraptured soul
hovered on the very confines of fabled elysium. Sliding from the
couch, upon her knees, she remained with her clasped hands pressed
over her heart, only conscious of her trembling delight. Once or
twice before she had felt thus, in watching a gorgeous sunset in the
old pine grove; and now, as the musician seemed to play upon her
heart-strings, calling thence unearthly tones, the tears rolled
swiftly over her face. Images of divine beauty filled her soul, and
nobler aspirations than she had ever known took possession of her.
Soon the tears ceased, the face became calm, singularly calm; then
lighted with an expression which nothing earthly could have kindled.
It was the look of one whose spirit, escaping from gross bondage,
soared into realms divine, and proclaimed itself God-born. Dr.
Hartwell was watching her countenance, and, as the expression of
indescribable joy and triumph flashed over it, he involuntarily
paused. She waited till the last deep echoing tone died away, and
then, approaching him, as he still sat before the instrument, she
laid her hand on his knee, and said slowly:

"Oh, thank you! I can bear anything now."

"Can you explain to me how the music strengthened you? Try, will
you?"

She mused for some moments, and answered thoughtfully:

"First, it made me forget the pain of my dream; then it caused me to
think of the wonderful power which created music; and then, from
remembering the infinite love and wisdom of the Creator, who has
given man the power to call out this music, I thought how very noble
man was, and what he was capable of doing; and, at last, I was glad
because God has given me some of these powers; and, though I am
ugly, and have been afflicted in losing my dear loved ones, yet I
was made for God's glory in some way, and am yet to be shown the
work he has laid out for me to do. Oh, sir! I can't explain it all
to you, but I do know that God will prove to me that 'He doeth all
things well.'"

She looked gravely up into the face beside her, and sought to read
its baffling characters. He had leaned his elbow on the melodeon,
and his wax-like fingers were thrust through his hair. His brow was
smooth, and his mouth at rest, but the dark eyes, with their
melancholy splendor, looked down at her moodily. They met her gaze
steadily; and then she saw into the misty depths, and a shudder
crept over her, as she fell on her knees, and said shiveringly:

"Oh, sir, can it be?"

He put his hand on her head, and asked quietly:

"Can what be, child?"

"Have you no God?"

His face grew whiter than was his wont. A scowl of bitterness
settled on it, and the eyes burned with an almost unearthly
brilliance, as he rose and walked away. For some time he stood
before the window, with his arms folded; and, laying her head on the
stool of the melodeon, Beulah knelt just as he left her It has been
said, "Who can refute a sneer?" Rather ask, Who can compute its
ruinous effects. To that kneeling figure came the thought, "If he,
surrounded by wealth and friends, and blessings, cannot believe in
God, what cause have I, poor, wretched, and lonely, to have faith in
him?" The bare suggestion of the doubt stamped it on her memory, yet
she shrank with horror from the idea, and an eager, voiceless prayer
ascended from her heart that she might be shielded from such
temptations in future. Dr. Hartwell touched her, and said, in his
usual low, musical tones:

"It is time you were asleep. Do not indulge in any more horrible
dreams, if you please. Good-night, Beulah. Whenever you feel that
you would like to have some music, do not hesitate to ask me for
it."

He held open the door for her to pass out. She longed to ask him
what he lived for, if eternity had no joys for him; but, looking in
his pale face, she saw from the lips and eyes that he would not
suffer any questioning, and, awed by the expression of his
countenance, she said "Good-night," and hurried away. The merry hum
of childish voices again fell on her ear, and as she ascended the
steps a bevy of white-clad girls emerged from a room near, and
walked on just below her. Pauline's party was at its height. Beulah
looked down on the fairy gossamer robes, and gayly tripping girls,
and then hastened to her own room, while the thought presented
itself:

"Why are things divided so unequally in this world? Why do some have
all of joy, and some only sorrow's brimming cup to drain?" But the
sweet voice of Faith answered, "What I do, thou knowest not now, but
thou shalt know hereafter," and, trusting the promise, she was
content to wait.



CHAPTER X.


"Cornelia Graham, I want to know why you did not come to my party.
You might at least have honored me with an excuse." Such was
Pauline's salutation, the following day, when the girls gathered in
groups about the schoolroom.

"Why, Pauline, I did send an excuse; but it was addressed to your
mother, and probably she forgot to mention it. You must acquit me of
any such rudeness."

"Well, but why didn't you come? We had a glorious time. I have half
a mind not to tell you what I heard said of you, but I believe you
may have it second-hand. Fred Vincent was as grum as a preacher all
the evening, and when I asked him what on earth made him so surly
and owlish, he said, 'It was too provoking you would not come, for
no one else could dance the schottisch to his liking.' Now there was
a sweet specimen of manners for you! You had better teach your beau
politeness."

Cornelia was leaning listlessly against Clara's desk, and Beulah
fancied she looked very sad and abstracted. She colored at the jest,
and answered contemptuously:

"He is no beau of mine, let me tell you; and as for manners, I
commend him to your merciful tuition."

"But what was your excuse?" persisted Pauline.

"I should think you might conjecture that I felt no inclination to
go to parties and dance when you know that we are all so anxious
about my brother."

"Oh, I did not think of that!" cried the heedless girl, and quite as
heedlessly she continued:

"I want to see that brother of yours. Uncle Guy says he is the
handsomest boy in the city, and promises to make something
extraordinary. Is he so very handsome?"

"Yes." The proud lip trembled.

"I heard Anne Vernon say she liked him better than all her other
beaux, and that is great praise, coming from her queenship," said
Emily Wood, who stood near.

Cornelia's eyes dilated angrily, as she answered with curling lips:

"Eugene one of her beaux! It is no such thing."

"You need not look so insulted. I suppose if the matter is such a
delicate one with you, Anne will withdraw her claim," sneered Emily,
happy in the opportunity afforded of wounding the haughty spirit
whom all feared and few sympathized with.

Cornelia was about to retort, but madam's voice prevented, as,
leaning from the platform opposite, she held out a note, and said:

"Miss Graham, a servant has just brought this for you."

The girl's face flushed and paled alternately, as she received the
note and broke the seal with trembling fingers. Glancing over the
contents, her countenance became irradiated, and she exclaimed
joyfully:

"Good news! The 'Morning Star' has arrived at Amsterdam. Eugene is
safe in Germany."

Beulah's head went down on her desk, and just audible were the
words:

"My Father in Heaven, I thank thee!"

Only Clara and Cornelia heard the broken accents, and they looked
curiously at the bowed figure, quivering with joy.

"Ah! I understand; this is the asylum Beulah I have often heard him
speak of. I had almost forgotten the circumstance. You knew him very
well, I suppose?" said Cornelia, addressing herself to the orphan,
and crumpling the note between her fingers, while her eyes ran with
haughty scrutiny over the dress and features before her.

"Yes, I knew him very well." Beulah felt the blood come into her
cheeks, and she ill brooked the cold, searching look bent upon her.

"You are the same girl that he asked my father to send to the public
school. How came you here?"

A pair of dark gray eyes met Cornelia's gaze, and seemed to answer
defiantly, "What is it to you?"

"Has Dr. Hartwell adopted you? Pauline said so, but she is so
heedless that I scarcely believed her, particularly when it seemed
so very improbable."

"Hush, Cornelia! Why, you need Pauline's tuition about as much as
Fred Vincent, I am disposed to think. Don't be so inquisitive; it
pains her," remonstrated Clara, laying her arm around Beulah's
shoulder as she spoke.

"Nonsense! She is not so fastidious, I will warrant. At least, she
might answer civil questions."

"I always do," said Beulah.

Cornelia smiled derisively, and turned off, with the parting taunt:

"It is a mystery to me what Eugene can see in such a homely,
unpolished specimen. He pities her, I suppose."

Clara felt a long shiver creep over the slight form, and saw the
ashen hue that settled on her face, as if some painful wound had
been inflicted. Stooping down, she whispered:

"Don't let it trouble you. Cornelia is hasty, but she is generous,
too, and will repent her rudeness. She did not intend to pain you;
it is only her abrupt way of expressing herself."

Beulah raised her head, and, putting back the locks of hair that had
fallen over her brow, replied coldly:

"It is nothing new; I am accustomed to such treatment. Only
professing to love Eugene I did not expect her to insult one whom he
had commissioned her to assist, or at least sympathize with."

"Remember, Beulah, she is an only child, and her father's idol, and
perhaps--"

"The very blessings that surround her should teach her to feel for
the unfortunate and unprotected," interrupted the orphan.

"You will find that prosperity rarely has such an effect upon the
heart of its favorite," answered Clara musingly.

"An unnecessary piece of information. I discovered that pleasant
truth some time since," said Beulah bitterly.

"I don't know, Beulah; you are an instance to the contrary. Do not
call yourself unfortunate, so long as Dr. Hartwell is your friend.
Ah! you little dream how blessed you are."

Her voice took the deep tone of intense feeling, and a faint glow
tinged her cheek.

"Yes, he is very kind, very good," replied the other, more gently.

"Kind! good! Is that all you can say of him?" The soft brown eyes
kindled with unwonted enthusiasm.

"What more can I say of him than that he is good?" returned the
orphan eagerly, while the conversation in the study, the preceding
day, rushed to her recollection.

Clara looked at her earnestly for a moment, and then averting her
head, answered evasively:

"Pardon me; I have no right to dictate the terms in which you should
mention your benefactor." Beulah's intuitions were remarkably quick,
and she asked slowly:

"Do you know him well?"

"Yes; oh, yes! very well indeed. Why do you ask?"

"And you like him very much?"

"Very much."

She saw the gentle face now, and saw that some sorrow had called
tears to the eyes, and sent the blood coldly back to her heart.

"No one can like him as I do. You don't know how very kind he has
been to me--me, the miserable, lonely orphan," murmured Beulah, as
his smile and tones recurred to her.

"Yes, I can imagine, because I know his noble heart; and, therefore,
child, I say you cannot realize how privileged you are."

The discussion was cut short by a call to recitation, and too calmly
happy in the knowledge of Eugene's safety to ponder her companion's
manner, Beulah sank into a reverie, in which Eugene, and Heidelberg,
and long letters mingled pleasingly. Later in the day, as she and
Pauline were descending the steps, the door of the primary
department of the school opened, and a little girl, clad in deep
black, started up the same flight of steps. Seeing the two above,
she leaned against the wall, waiting for them to pass. Beulah stood
still, and the sachel she carried fell unheeded from her hand, while
a thrilling cry broke from the little girl's lips; and, springing up
the steps, she threw herself into Beulah's arms.

"Dear Beulah! I have found you at last!" She covered the thin face
with passionate kisses; then heavy sobs escaped her, and the two
wept bitterly together.

"Beulah, I did love her very much; I did not forget what I promised
you. She used to put her arms around my neck every night, and go to
sleep close to me; and whenever she thought about you and cried, she
always put her head in my lap. Indeed I did love her."

"I believe you, Claudy," poor Beulah groaned, in her anguish.

"They did not tell me she was dead; they said she was sick in
another room! Oh, Beulah! why didn't you come to see us? Why didn't
you come? When she was first taken sick she called for you all the
time; and the evening they moved me into the next room she was
asking for you. 'I want my sister Beulah! I want my Beulah!' was the
last thing I heard her say; and when I cried for you, too, mamma
said we were both crazy with fever. Oh!"--she paused and sobbed
convulsively. Beulah raised her head, and, while the tears dried in
her flashing eyes, said fiercely:

"Claudy, I did go to see you! On my knees, at Mrs. Grayson's front
door, I prayed her to let me see you. She refused, and ordered me to
come there no more! She would not suffer my sister to know that I
was waiting there on my knees to see her dear, angel face. That was
long before you were taken sick. She did not even send me word that
Lilly was ill: I knew nothing of it till my darling was cold in her
little shroud! Oh, Claudy! Claudy!"

She covered her face with her hands and tried to stifle the wail
that crossed her lips. Claudia endeavored to soothe her, by winding
her arms about her and kissing her repeatedly. Pauline had looked
wonderingly on, during this painful reunion; and now drawing nearer,
she said, with more gentleness than was her custom:

"Don't grieve so, Beulah. Wipe your eyes and come home; those girls
yonder are staring at you."

"What business is it of yours?" began Claudia; but Beulah's
sensitive nature shrank from observation, and, rising hastily, she
took Claudia to her bosom, kissed her, and turned away.

"Oh, Beulah! shan't I see you again?" cried the latter, with
streaming eyes.

"Claudia, your mamma would not be willing."

"I don't care what she thinks. Please come to see me--please, do!
Beulah, you don't love me now, because Lilly is dead! Oh, I could
not keep her--God took her!"

"Yes, I do love you, Claudy--more than ever; but you must come to
see me. I cannot go to that house again. I can't see your mamma
Grayson. Come and see me, darling!"

She drew her bonnet over her face and hurried out.

"Where do you live? I will come and see you!" cried Claudia, running
after the retreating form.

"She lives at Dr. Hartwell's--that large, brick house, out on the
edge of town; everybody knows the place."

Pauline turned back to give this piece of information, and then
hastened on to join Beulah. She longed to inquire into all the
particulars of the orphan's early life; but the pale, fixed face
gave no encouragement to question, and they walked on in perfect
silence until they reached the gate at the end of the avenue. Then
Pauline asked energetically:

"Is that little one any kin to you?"

"No; I have no kin in this world," answered Beulah drearily.

Pauline shrugged her shoulders, and made no further attempt to
elicit confidence. On entering the house, they encountered the
doctor, who was crossing the hall. He stopped, and said:

"I have glad tidings for you, Beulah. The 'Morning Star' arrived
safely at Amsterdam, and by this time Eugene is at Heidelberg."

Beulah stood very near him, and answered tremblingly:

"Yes, sir; I heard it at school."

He perceived that something was amiss, and, untying her bonnet,
looked searchingly at the sorrow-stained face. She shut her eyes,
and leaned her head against him.

"What is the matter, my child? I thought you would be very happy in
hearing of Eugene's safety."

She was unable to reply just then; and Pauline, who stood swinging
her sachel to and fro, volunteered an explanation.

"Uncle Guy, she is curious, that is all. As we were leaving school,
she met a little girl on the steps, and they flew at each other, and
cried, and kissed, and--you never saw anything like it! I thought
the child must be a very dear relation; but she says she has no kin.
I don't see the use of crying her eyes out, particularly when the
little one is nothing to her."

Her uncle's countenance resumed its habitual severity, and, taking
Beulah's hand, he led her into that quietest of all quiet places,
his study. Seating himself, and drawing her to his side, he said:

"Was it meeting Claudia that distressed you so much? That child is
very warmly attached to you. She raved about you constantly during
her illness. So did Lilly. I did not understand the relationship
then, or I should have interfered, and carried you to her. I called
to see Mr. and Mrs. Grayson last week, to remove the difficulties in
the way of your intercourse with Claudia, but they were not at home.
I will arrange matters so that you may be with Claudia as often as
possible. You have been wronged, child, I know; but try to bury it;
it is all past now." He softly smoothed back her hair as he spoke.

"No, sir; it never will be past; it will always be burning here in
my heart."

"I thought you professed to believe in the Bible."

She looked up instantly, and answered:

"I do, sir. I do."

"Then your belief is perfectly worthless; for the Bible charges you
to 'forgive and love your enemies,' and here you are trying to fan
your hate into an everlasting flame."

She saw the scornful curl of his lips, and, sinking down beside him,
she laid her head on his knee, and said hastily:

"I know it is wrong, sinful, to feel toward Mrs. Grayson as I do.
Yes, sir; the Bible tells me it is very sinful; but I have been so
miserable, I could not help hating her. But I will try to do so no
more. I will ask God to help me forgive her."

His face flushed even to his temples, and then the blood receded,
leaving it like sculptured marble. Unable or unwilling to answer, he
put his hands on her head, softly, reverently, as though he touched
something ethereal. He little dreamed that, even then, that
suffering heart was uplifted to the Throne of Grace, praying the
Father that she might so live and govern herself that he might come
to believe the Bible, which her clear insight too surely told her he
despised.

Oh! Protean temptation. Even as she knelt, with her protector's
hands resting on her brow, ubiquitous evil suggested the thought:
"Is he not kinder, and better, than anyone you ever knew? Has not
Mrs. Grayson a pew in the most fashionable church? Did not Eugene
tell you he saw her there, regularly, every Sunday? Professing
Christianity, she injured you; rejecting it, he has guarded and most
generously aided you. 'By their fruits ye shall judge.'" Very dimly
all this passed through her mind. She was perplexed and troubled at
the confused ideas veiling her trust.

"Beulah, I have an engagement, and must leave you. Stay here, if you
like, or do as you please with yourself. I shall not be home to tea,
so good-night." She looked pained, but remained silent. He smiled,
and, drawing out his watch, said gayly:

"I verily believe you miss me when I leave you. Go, put on your
other bonnet, and come down to the front door; I have nearly an hour
yet, I see, and will give you a short ride. Hurry, child; I don't
like to wait."

She was soon seated beside him in the buggy, and Mazeppa's swift
feet had borne them some distance from home ere either spoke. The
road ran near the bay, and while elegant residences lined one side,
the other was bounded by a wide expanse of water, rippling,
sparkling, glowing in the evening sunlight. Small sail boats, with
their gleaming canvas, dotted the blue bosom of the bay; and the
balmy breeze, fresh from the gulf, fluttered the bright pennons that
floated from their masts. Beulah was watching the snowy wall of
foam, piled on either side of the prow of a schooner, and thinking
how very beautiful it was, when the buggy stopped suddenly, and Dr.
Hartwell addressed a gentleman on horseback:

"Percy, you may expect me; I am coming as I promised."

"I was about to remind you of your engagement. But, Guy, whom have
you there?"

"My protegee I told you of. Beulah, this is Mr. Lockhart."

The rider reined his horse near her side, and, leaning forward as he
raised his hat, their eyes met. Both started visibly, and, extending
his hand, Mr. Lockhart said eagerly:

"Ah, my little forest friend! I am truly glad to find you again."

She shook hands very quietly, but an expression of pleasure stole
over her face. Her guardian observed it, and asked:

"Pray, Percy, what do you know of her?"

"That she sings very charmingly," answered his friend, smiling at
Beulah.

"He saw me once when I was at the asylum," said she,

"And was singing part of the regime there?"

"No, Guy. She was wandering about the piney woods, near the asylum,
with two beautiful elves, when I chanced to meet her. She was
singing at the time. Beulah, I am glad to find you out again; and in
future, when I pay the doctor long visits, I shall expect you to
appear for my entertainment. Look to it, Guy, that she is present.
But I am fatigued with my unusual exercise, and must return home.
Good-by, Beulah; shake hands. I am going immediately to my room,
Guy; so come as soon as you can." He rode slowly on, while Dr.
Hartwell shook the reins, and Mazeppa sprang down the road again.
Beulah had remarked a great alteration in Mr. Lockhart's appearance;
he was much paler, and bore traces of recent and severe illness. His
genial manner and friendly words had interested her, and, looking up
at her guardian, she said timidly:

"Is he ill, sir?"

"He has been, and is yet quite feeble. Do you like him?"

"I know nothing of him, except that he spoke to me one evening some
months ago. Does he live here, sir?"

"No; he has a plantation on the river, but is here on a visit
occasionally. Much of his life has been spent in Europe, and thither
he goes again very soon."

The sun had set. The bay seemed a vast sheet of fire, as the crimson
clouds cast their shifting shadows on its bosom; and, forgetting
everything else, Beulah leaned out of the buggy, and said almost
unconsciously:

"How beautiful! how very beautiful!" Her lips were parted; her eyes
clear and sparkling with delight. Dr. Hartwell sighed, and, turning
from the bay road, approached his home. Beulah longed to speak to
him of what was pressing on her heart; but, glancing at his
countenance to see whether it was an auspicious time, she was
deterred by the somber sternness which overshadowed it, and before
she could summon courage to speak, they stopped at the front gate.

"Jump out, and go home; I have not time to drive in."

She got out of the buggy, and, looking up at him as he rose to
adjust some part of the harness, said bravely:

"I am very much obliged to you for my ride. I have not had such a
pleasure for years. I thank you very much."

"All very unnecessary, child. I am glad you enjoyed it."

He seated himself, and gathered up the reins, without looking at
her. But she put her hand on the top of the wheel, and said in an
apologetic tone:

"Excuse me, sir; but may I wait in your study till you come home? I
want to ask you something." Her face flushed, and her voice trembled
with embarrassment.

"It may be late before I come home to-night. Can't you tell me now
what you want? I can wait."

"Thank you, sir; to-morrow will do as well, I suppose. I will not
detain you." She opened the gate and entered the yard. Dr. Hartwell
looked after her an instant, and called out, as he drove on:

"Do as you like, Beulah, about waiting for me. Of course the study
is free to you at all times."

The walk, or rather carriage road, leading up to the house was
bordered by stately poplars and cedars, whose branches interlaced
overhead, and formed a perfect arch. Beulah looked up at the dark-
green depths among the cedars, and walked on with a feeling of
contentment, nay, almost of happiness, which was a stranger to her
heart. In front of the house, and in the center of a grassy circle,
was a marble basin, from which a fountain ascended. She sat down on
the edge of the reservoir, and, taking off her bonnet, gave
unrestrained license to her wandering thoughts. Wherever her eyes
turned, verdure, flowers, statuary met her gaze; the air was laden
with the spicy fragrance of jasmines, and the low, musical babble of
the fountain had something very soothing in its sound. With her keen
appreciation of beauty, there was nothing needed to enhance her
enjoyment; and she ceased to remember her sorrows. Before long,
however, she was startled by the sight of several elegantly dressed
ladies emerging from the house; at the same instant a handsome
carriage, which she had not previously observed, drove from a turn
in the walk and drew up to the door to receive them. Mrs. Chilton
stood on the steps, exchanging smiles and polite nothings, and, as
one of the party requested permission to break a sprig of geranium
growing near, she gracefully offered to collect a bouquet, adding,
as she severed some elegant clusters of heliotrope and jasmine:

"Guy takes inordinate pride in his parterre, arranges and overlooks
all the flowers himself. I often tell him I am jealous of my
beautiful rivals; they monopolize his leisure so completely."

"Nonsense! we know to our cost that you of all others need fear
rivalry from no quarter. There; don't break any more. What superb
taste the doctor has! This lovely spot comes nearer my ideal of
European elegance than any place I know at the South. I suppose the
fascination of his home makes him such a recluse! Why doesn't he
visit more? He neglects us shamefully! He is such a favorite in
society too; only I believe everybody is rather afraid of him. I
shall make a most desperate effort to charm him so soon as an
opportunity offers. Don't tell him I said so though--'forewarned,
forearmed.'" All this was very volubly uttered by a dashing, showy
young lady, dressed in the extreme of fashion, and bearing
unmistakable marks of belonging to beau monde. She extended a hand
eased in white kid, for the flowers, and looked steadily at the lady
of the house as she spoke.

"I shall not betray your designs, Miss Julia. Guy is a great lover
of the beautiful, and I am not aware that anywhere in the book of
fate is written the decree that he shall not marry again. Take care,
you are tearing your lace point on that rose bush; let me disengage
it." She stooped to rescue the cobweb wrapping, and, looking about
her, Miss Julia exclaimed:

"Is that you, Pauline? Come and kiss me! Why, you look as unsociable
as your uncle, sitting there all alone!"

She extended her hand toward Beulah, who, as may be supposed, made
no attempt to approach her. Mrs. Chilton smiled, and, clasping the
bracelet on her arm, discovered to her visitor the mistake.

"Pauline is not at home. That is a little beggarly orphan Guy took
it into his head to feed and clothe, till some opportunity offered
of placing her in a respectable home. I have teased him unmercifully
about this display of taste; asked him what rank he assigned her in
his catalogue of beautiful treasures." She laughed as if much
amused.

"Oh, that reminds me that I heard some of the schoolgirls say that
the doctor had adopted an orphan. I thought I would ask you about
it. Mother here declared that she knew it could not be so; but I
told her he was so very odd, there was no accounting for his
notions. So he has not adopted her?"

"Pshaw! of course not! She was a wretched little object of charity,
and Guy brought her here to keep her from starving. He picked her up
at the hospital, I believe."

"I knew it must be a mistake. Come, Julia, remember you are going
out to-night, and it is quite late. Do come very soon, my dear Mrs.
Chilton." Mrs. Vincent, Miss Julia, and their companions entered the
carriage, and were soon out of sight. Beulah still sat at the
fountain. She would gladly have retreated on the appearance of the
strangers, but could not effect an escape without attracting the
attention she so earnestly desired to be spared, and therefore kept
her seat. Every word of the conversation, which had been carried on
in anything but a subdued tone, reached her, and though the head was
unbowed as if she had heard nothing, her face was dyed with shame.
Her heart throbbed violently, and as the words, "beggarly orphan,"
"wretched object of charity," fell on her ears, it seemed as if a
fierce fire-bath had received her. As the carriage disappeared, Mrs.
Chilton approached her, and, stung to desperation by the merciless
taunts, she instantly rose and confronted her. Never had she seen
the widow look so beautiful, and for a moment they eyed each other.

"What are you doing here, after having been told to keep out of
sight?--answer me!" She spoke with the inflexible sternness of a
mistress to an offending servant.

"Madam, I am not the miserable beggar you represented me a moment
since; nor will I answer questions addressed in any such tone of
authority and contempt."

"Indeed! Well, then, my angelic martyr, how do you propose to help
yourself?" answered Mrs. Chilton, laughing with undisguised scorn.

"Dr. Hartwell brought me to his house, of his own accord; you know
that I was scarcely conscious when I came into it. He has been very
kind to me--has offered to adopt me. This you know perfectly well.
But I am not in danger of starvation away from this house. You know
that instead of having been picked up at the hospital, I was earning
my living, humble though it was, as a servant. He offered to adopt
me, because he saw that I was very unhappy; not because I needed
food or clothes, as you asserted just now, and as you knew was
untrue. Madam, I have known, ever since my recovery, that you hated
me, and I scorn to accept bounty, nay, even a shelter, where I am so
unwelcome. I have never dreamed of occupying the place you covet for
Pauline. I intended to accept Dr. Hartwell's kindness, so far as
receiving an education, which would enable me to support myself less
laboriously; but, madam, I will relieve you of my hated presence. I
can live without any assistance from your family. The despised and
ridiculed orphan will not remain to annoy you. Oh, you might have
effected your purpose with less cruelty! You could have told me
kindly that you did not want me here, and I would not have wondered
at it. But to crush me publicly, as you have done--" Wounded pride
stifled the trembling accents.

Mrs. Chilton bit her lip. She had not expected this expression of
proud independence; and, seeing that she had gone too far, pondered
the best method of rectifying the mischief with as little compromise
of personal dignity as possible. Ultimately to eject her, she had
intended from the first; but perfectly conscious that her brother
would accept no explanation or palliation of the girl's departure at
this juncture, and that she and Pauline would soon follow her from
the house, she felt that her own interest demanded the orphan's
presence for a season. Nearly blinded by tears of indignation and
mortification, Beulah turned from her, but the delicate white hand
arrested her, and pressed heavily on her shoulder. She drew herself
up, and tried to shake off the hold; but firm as iron was the grasp
of the snowy fingers, and calm and cold as an Arctic night was the
tone which said:

"Pshaw, girl, are you mad? You have sense enough to know that you
are one too many in this house; but if you only desire to be
educated, as you profess, why, I am perfectly willing that you
should remain here. The idea of your growing up as my brother's
heiress and adopted child was too preposterous to be entertained,
and you can see the absurdity yourself; but so long as you
understand matters properly, and merely desire to receive
educational advantages, of course you can and will remain. I do not
wish this to go any further, and, as a sensible girl, you will not
mention it. As a friend, however, I would suggest that you should
avoid putting yourself in the way of observation." As she concluded
she quietly brushed off a small spider which was creeping over
Beulah's sleeve.

"Don't trouble yourself, madam; I am not at all afraid of poisonous
things; I have become accustomed to them."

Smiling bitterly, she stooped to pick up her new bonnet, which had
fallen on the grass at her feet, and, fixing her eyes defiantly on
the handsome face before her, said resolutely:

"No! contemptible as you think me, beggarly and wretched as you
please to term me, I have too much self-respect to stay a day longer
where I have been so grossly, so needlessly insulted. You need not
seek to detain me. Take your hand off my arm. I am going now; the
sooner, the better. I understand, madam, your brother will not
countenance your cruelty, and you are ashamed for him to know what,
in his absence, you were not ashamed to do. I scorn to retaliate! He
shall not learn from me why I left so suddenly. Tell him what you
choose."

Mrs. Chilton was very pale, and her lips were compressed till they
grew purple. Clinching her hand, she said under her breath:

"You artful little wretch. Am I to be thwarted by such a mere child?
You shall not quit the house. Go to your room, and don't make a fool
of yourself. In future I shall not concern myself about you, if you
take root at the front door. Go in, and let matters stand. I promise
you I will not interfere again, no matter what you do. Do you hear
me?"

"No. You have neither the power to detain nor to expel me. I shall
leave here immediately, and you need not attempt to coerce me; for,
if you do, I will acquaint Dr. Hartwell with the whole affair, as
soon as he comes, or when I see him. I am going for my clothes; not
those you so reluctantly had made, but the old garments I wore when
I worked for my bread." She shook off the detaining hand, and went
up to her room. Harriet had already lighted her lamp, and, as she
entered the door, the rays fell brightly on the picture she had
learned to love so well. Now she looked at it through scalding
tears, and, to her excited fancy, the smile seemed to have faded
from the lips of Hope, and the valley looked more dreary, and the
pilgrims more desolate and miserable. She turned from it, and,
taking off the clothes she wore, dressed herself in the humble
apparel of former days. The old trunk was scarcely worth keeping,
save as a relic; and folding up the clothes and books into as small
a bundle as possible, she took it in her arms and descended the
steps. She wished very much to tell Harriet good-by, and thank her
for her unvarying kindness; and now, on the eve of her departure,
she remembered the words whispered during her illness, and the offer
of assistance when she "got into trouble," as Harriet phrased it;
but, dreading to meet Mrs. Chilton again, she hurried down the hall,
and left the house. The friendly stars looked kindly down upon the
orphan, as she crossed the common, and proceeded toward the asylum,
and raising her eyes to the jeweled dome, the solemn beauty of the
night hushed the wild tumult in her heart, and she seemed to hear
the words pronounced from the skyey depths: "Lo, I am with you
always, even unto the end." Gradually, the results of the step she
had taken obtruded themselves before her, and with a keen pang of
pain and grief came the thought, "What will Dr. Hartwell think of
me?" All his kindness during the time she had passed beneath his
roof--his genial tones; his soft, caressing touch on her head; his
rare, but gentle smile; his constant care for her comfort and
happiness--all rushed like lightning over her mind, and made the hot
tears gush over her face. Mrs. Chilton would, of course, offer him
some plausible solution of her sudden departure. He would think her
ungrateful, and grow indifferent to her welfare or fate. Yet hope
whispered, "He will suspect the truth; he must know his sister's
nature; he will not blame me." But all this was in the cloudy realm
of conjecture, and the stern realities of her position weighed
heavily on her heart. Through Dr. Hartwell, who called to explain
her sudden disappearance, Mrs. Martin had sent her the eighteen
dollars due for three months' service, and this little sum was all
that she possessed. As she walked on, pondering the many
difficulties which attended the darling project of educating herself
thoroughly, the lights of the asylum greeted her, and it was with a
painful sense of desolation that she mounted the steps, and stood
upon the threshold, where she and Lilly had so often sat, in years
gone by. Mrs. Williams met her at the door, wondering what unusual
occurrence induced a visitor at this unseasonable hour. The hall
lamp shone on her kind but anxious face, and as Beulah looked at
her, remembered care and love caused a feeling of suffocation, and,
with an exclamation of joy, she threw her arms around her.
Astonished at a greeting so unexpected, the matron glanced hurriedly
at the face pressed against her bosom, and, recognizing her quondam
charge, folded her tenderly to her heart.

"Beulah, dear child, I am so glad to see you!" As she kissed her
white cheeks, Beulah felt the tears dropping down upon them.

"Come into my room, dear, and take off your bonnet." She led her to
the quiet little room, and took the bundle and the antiquated
bonnet, which Pauline declared "Mrs. Noah had worn all through the
forty days' shower."

"Mrs. Williams, can I stay here with you until I can get a place
somewhere? The managers will not object, will they?"

"No, dear; I suppose not. But, Beulah, I thought you had been
adopted, just after Lilly died, by Dr. Hartwell? Here I have been,
ever since I heard it from some of the managers, thinking how lucky
it was for you, and feeling so thankful to God for remembering his
orphans. Child, what has happened? Tell me freely, Beulah."

With her head on the matron's shoulder, she imparted enough of what
had transpired to explain her leaving her adopted home. Mrs.
Williams shook her head, and said sadly:

"You have been too hasty, child. It was Dr. Hartwell's house; he had
taken you to it, and, without consulting and telling him, you should
not have left it. If you felt that you could not live there in peace
with his sister, it was your duty to have told him so, and then
decided as to what course you would take. Don't be hurt, child, if I
tell you you are too proud. Poverty and pride make a bitter lot in
this world; and take care you don't let your high spirit ruin your
prospects. I don't mean to say, dear, that you ought to bear insult
and oppression, but I do think you owed it to the doctor's kindness
to have waited until his return before you quitted his house."

"Oh, you do not know him! If he knew all that Mrs. Chilton said and
did he would turn her and Pauline out of the house immediately. They
are poor, and, but for him, could not live without toil. I have no
right to cause their ruin. She is his sister, and has a claim on
him. I have none. She expects Pauline to inherit his fortune, and
could not bear to think of his adopting me. I don't wonder at that
so much. But she need not have been so cruel, so insulting. I don't
want his money, or his house, or his elegant furniture. I only want
an education, and his advice, and his kind care for a few years. I
like Pauline very much indeed. She never treated me at all unkindly;
and I could not bear to bring misfortune on her, she is so happy."

"That is neither here nor there. He will not hear the truth, of
course; and, even if he did, he will not suppose you were actuated
by any such Christian motives to shield his sister's meanness. You
ought to have seen him first."

"Well, it is all over now, and I see I must help myself. I want to
go to the public school, where the tuition is free; but how can I
support myself in the meantime? Eighteen dollars would not board me
long, and, besides, I shall have to buy clothes." She looked up,
much perplexed, in the matron's anxious face. The latter was silent
a moment, and then said:

"Why, the public school closes in a few weeks; the next session will
not begin before autumn, and what could you do until then? No, I
will just inform Dr. Hartwell of the truth of the whole matter. I
think it is due him, and--"

"Indeed you must not! I promised Mrs. Chilton that I would not
implicate her, and your doing it would amount to the same thing. I
would not be the means of driving Pauline out of her uncle's house
for all the gold in California!"

"Silly child! What on earth possessed you to promise any such
thing?"

"I wanted her to see that I was honest in what I said. She knew that
I could, by divulging the whole affair, turn her out of the house
(for Dr. Hartwell's disposition is a secret to no one who has lived
in his home), and I wished to show her that I told the truth in
saying I only wanted to be educated for a teacher." "Suppose the
doctor comes here and asks you about the matter?"

"I shall tell him that I prefer not being dependent on anyone. But
he will not come. He does not know where I am."

Yet the dread that he would filled her mind with new anxieties.

"Well, well, it is no use to fret over what can't be undone. I wish
I could help you, but I don't see any chance just now."

"Could not I get some plain sewing? Perhaps the managers would give
me work?"

"Ah, Beulah, it would soon kill you, to have to sew for your
living."

"No, no; I can bear more than you think," answered the girl, with a
dreary smile.

"Yes; your spirit can endure more than your body. Your father died
with consumption, child; but don't fret about it any more to-night.
Come, get some supper, and then go to sleep. You will stay in my
room, with me, dear, till something can be done to assist you."

"Mrs. Williams, you must promise me that you never will speak of
what I have told you regarding that conversation with Mrs. Chilton."

"I promise you, dear, I never will mention it, since you prefer
keeping the matter secret."

"What will Dr. Hartwell think of me?" was the recurring thought that
would not be banished; and, unable to sleep, Beulah tossed
restlessly on her pillow all night, dreading lest he should despise
her for her seeming ingratitude.



CHAPTER XI.


For perhaps two hours after Beulah's departure Mrs. Chilton wandered
up and down the parlors, revolving numerous schemes explanatory of
her unexpected exodus. Completely nonplused, for the first time in
her life, she sincerely rued the expression of dislike and contempt
which had driven the orphan from her adopted home; and, unable to
decide on the most plausible solution to be offered her brother, she
paced restlessly to and fro. Engrossed by no particularly felicitous
reflections, she failed to notice Mazeppa's quick tramp, and
remained in ignorance of the doctor's return until he entered the
room, and stood beside her. His manner was hurried, his thoughts
evidently preoccupied, as he said:

"May, I am going into the country to be absent all of tomorrow, and
possibly longer. There is some surgical work to be performed for a
careless hunter, and I must start immediately. I want you to see
that a room is prepared for Percy Lockhart. He is very feeble, and I
have invited him to come and stay with me while he is in the city.
He rode out this evening, and is worse from the fatigue. I shall
expect you to see that everything is provided for him that an
invalid could desire. Can I depend upon you?"

"Certainly; I will exert myself to render his stay here pleasant;
make yourself easy on that score." It was very evident that the
cloud was rapidly lifting from her heart and prospects; but she
veiled the sparkle in her eye, and, unsuspicious of anything amiss,
her brother left the room. Walking up to one of the mirrors, which
extended from floor to ceiling, she surveyed herself carefully, and
a triumphant smile parted her lips.

"Percy Lockhart is vulnerable as well as other people, and I have
yet to see the man whose heart will proudly withstand the
allurements of flattery, provided the homage is delicately and
gracefully offered. Thank Heaven! years have touched me lightly, and
there was more truth than she relished in what Julia Vincent said
about my beauty!"

This self-complacent soliloquy was cut short by the appearance of
her brother, who carried a case of surgical instruments in his hand.

"May, tell Beulah I am sorry I did not see her. I would go up and
wake her, but have not time. She wished to ask me something. Tell
her, if it is anything of importance, to do just as she likes; I
will see about it when I come home. Be sure you tell her. Good-
night; take care of Percy." He turned away, but she exclaimed:

"She is not here, Guy. She asked me this evening if she might spend
the night at the asylum. She thought you would not object, and
certainly I had no authority to prevent her. Indeed, the parlor was
full of company, and I told her she might go if she wished. I
suppose she will be back early in the morning."

His face darkened instantly, and she felt that he was searching her
with his piercing eyes.

"All this sounds extremely improbable to me. If she is not at home
again at breakfast, take the carriage and go after her. Mind, May! I
will sift the whole matter when I come back." He hurried off, and
she breathed freely once more. Dr. Hartwell sprang into his buggy,
to which a fresh horse had been attached, and, dismissing Hal, whose
weight would only have retarded his progress, he drove rapidly off.
The gate had been left open for him, and he was passing through,
when arrested by Harriet's well-known voice.

"Stop, master! Stop a minute!"

"What do you want? I can't stop!" cried he impatiently.

"Are you going after that poor, motherless child?"

"No. But what the devil is to pay here! I shall get at the truth
now. Where is Beulah? Talk fast."

"She is at the asylum to-night, sir. I followed and watched the poor
little thing. Master, if you don't listen to me, if you please, sir,
you never will get at the truth, for that child won't tell it. I
heard her promise Miss May she would not. You would be ready to
fight if you knew all I know."

"Why did Beulah leave here this evening?"

"Because Miss May abused and insulted her; told her before some
ladies that she was a 'miserable beggar' that you picked up at the
hospital, and that you thought it was charity to feed and clothe her
till she was big enough to work. The ladies were in the front yard,
and the child happened to be sitting by the fountain; she had just
come from riding. I was sewing at one of the windows upstairs, sir,
and heard every word. When the folks were gone Miss May walks up to
her and asks her what she is doing where anybody could see her? Oh,
master! if you could have seen that child's looks. She fairly seemed
to rise off her feet, and her face was as white as a corpse. She
said she had wanted an education; that she knew you had been very
kind; hut she never dreamed of taking Miss Pauline's place in your
house. She said she would not stay where she was unwelcome; that she
was not starving when you took her home; that she knew you were kind
and good; but that she scorned--them were the very words, master--
she scorned to stay a day longer where she had been so insulted! Oh,
she was in a towering rage; she trembled all over, and Miss May
began to be scared, for she knew you would not suffer such doings,
and she tried to pacify her and make up the quarrel by telling her
she might stay and have an education, if that was all she wanted.
But the girl would not hear to anything she said, and told her she
need not be frightened, that she wouldn't go to you with the fuss;
she would not tell you why she left your house. She went to her room
and she got every rag of her old clothes, and left the house with
the tears raining out of her eyes. Oh, master, it's a crying shame!
If you had only been here to hear that child talk to Miss May! Good
Lord! how her big eyes did blaze when she told her she could earn a
living!"

By the pale moonlight she could see that her master's face was rigid
as steel; but his voice was even calmer than usual when he asked:
"Are you sure she is now at the asylum?"

"Yes, sir; sure."

"Very well; she is safe then for the present. Does anyone know that
you heard the conversation?"

"Not a soul, sir, except yourself."

"Keep the matter perfectly quiet till I come home. I shall be away a
day, or perhaps longer. Meantime, see that Beulah does not get out
of your sight. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir--I do."

The buggy rolled swiftly on, and Harriet returned to the house by a
circuitous route, surmising that "Miss May's" eyes might detect her
movements.

The same night Clara Sanders sat on the doorstep of her tumble
cottage home. The moonlight crept through the clustering honeysuckle
and silvered the piazza floor with grotesque fretwork, while it
bathed lovingly the sad face of the girlish watcher. Her chin rested
in her palms, and the soft eyes were bent anxiously on the
countenance of her infirm and aged companion.

"Grandpa, don't look so troubled. I am very sorry, too, about the
diploma; but if I am not to have it, why, there is no use in
worrying about it. Madam St. Cymon is willing to employ me as I am,
and certainly I should feel grateful for her preference, when there
are several applicants for the place. She told me this evening that
she thought I would find no difficulty in performing what would be
required of me."

This was uttered in a cheerful tone, which might have succeeded very
well had the sorrowful face been veiled.

"Ah, Clara, you don't dream of the burden you are taking upon
yourself! The position of assistant teacher in an establishment like
Madam St. Cymon's is one that you are by nature totally unfitted
for. Child, it will gall your spirit; it will be unendurable." The
old man sighed heavily.

"Still, I have been educated with an eye to teaching, and though I
am now to occupy a very subordinate place, the trials will not be
augmented. On the whole, I do not know but it is best as it is. Do
not try to discourage me. It is all I can do, and I am determined I
will not despond about what can't be helped."

"My dear child, I did not mean to depress you. But you are so young
to bow your neck to such a yoke! How old are you?" He turned round
to look at her.

"Only sixteen and a few months. Life is before me yet, an untrodden
plain. Who knows but this narrow path of duty may lead to a calm,
sweet resting-place for us both? I was thinking just now of that
passage from your favorite Wallenstein:"

   "My soul's secure! In the night only, Friedland's stars can beam.'

"The darkness has come down upon us, grandpa; let us wait patiently
for the uprising of stars. I am not afraid of the night."

There was silence for some moments; then the old man rose, and,
putting back the white locks which had fallen over his face, asked,
in a subdued tone:

"When will you commence your work?"

"To-morrow, sir."

"God bless you, Clara, and give you strength, as he sees you have
need." He kissed her fondly, and withdrew to his own room. She sat
for some time looking vacantly at the mosaic of light and shade on
the floor before her, and striving to divest her mind of the
haunting thought that she was the victim of some unyielding
necessity, whose decree had gone forth, and might not be annulled.
In early childhood her home had been one of splendid affluence; but
reverses came, thick and fast, as misfortunes ever do, and, ere she
could realize the swift transition, penury claimed her family among
its crowding legions. Discouraged and embittered, her father made
the wine-cup the sepulcher of care, and in a few months found a
deeper and far more quiet grave. His mercantile embarrassments had
dragged his father-in-law to ruin; and, too aged to toil up the
steep again, the latter resigned himself to spending the remainder
of his days in obscurity, and perhaps want. To Clara's gifted mother
he looked for aid and comfort in the clouded evening of life, and
with unceasing energy she toiled to shield her father and her child
from actual labor. Thoroughly acquainted with music and drawing, her
days were spent in giving lessons in those branches which had been
acquired with reference to personal enjoyment alone, and the silent
hours of the night often passed in stitching the garments of those
who had flocked to her costly entertainments in days gone by. When
Clara was about thirteen years of age a distant relative, chancing
to see her, kindly proposed to contribute the sum requisite for
affording her every educational advantage. The offer was gratefully
accepted by the devoted mother, and Clara was placed at Madam St.
Cymon's, where more than ordinary attention could be bestowed on the
languages.

The noble woman whose heart had bled incessantly over the misery,
ruin, and degradation of her husband sank slowly under the
intolerable burden of sorrows, and a few weeks previous to the
evening of which I write folded her weary hands and went home to
rest. In the springtime of girlhood, Clara felt herself transformed
into a woman. Standing beside her mother's tomb, supporting her
grandmother's tottering form, she shuddered in anticipating the
dreary future that beckoned her on; and now, as if there were not
troubles enough already to disquiet her, the annual amount advanced
toward her school expenses was suddenly withdrawn. The cousin,
residing in a distant State, wrote that pecuniary troubles had
assailed him, and prevented all further assistance. In one more year
she would have finished the prescribed course and graduated
honorably; and, more than all, she would have obtained a diploma,
which might have been an "open sesame" to any post she aspired to.
Thus frustrated in her plans, she gladly accepted the position of
assistant teacher in the primary department, which, having become
vacant by the dismissal of the incumbent, madam kindly tendered her.
The salary was limited, of course; but nothing else presented
itself, and, quitting the desk, where she had so often pored over
her text-books, she prepared to grapple with the trials which
thickly beset the path of a young woman thrown upon her own
resources for maintenance. Clara was naturally amiable, unselfish,
and trusting. She was no intellectual prodigy, yet her mind was
clear and forcible, her judgment matured, and, above all, her pure
heart warm and loving. Notwithstanding the stern realities that
marked her path, there was a vein of romance in her nature which,
unfortunately, attained more than healthful development, and while
it often bore her into the Utopian realms of fancy, it was still
impotent to modify, in any degree, the social difficulties with
which she was forced to contend. Ah, there is a touching beauty in
the radiant up-look of a girl just crossing the limits of youth, and
commencing her journey through the checkered sphere of womanhood! It
is all dew-sparkle and morning glory to her ardent, buoyant spirit,
as she presses forward exulting in blissful anticipations. But the
withering heat of the conflict of life creeps on; the dewdrops
exhale, the garlands of hope, shattered and dead, strew the path,
and too often, ere noontide, the clear brow and sweet smile are
exchanged for the weary look of one longing for the evening rest,
the twilight, the night. Oh, may the good God give his sleep early
unto these many!

There was a dawning light in Clara's eyes which showed that, though
as yet a mere girl in years, she had waked to the consciousness of
emotions which belong to womanhood. She was pretty, and of course
she knew it, for I am skeptical of those characters who grow up to
mature beauty, all unsuspicious of the fatal dower, and are some day
startled by a discovery of their possessions. She knew, too, that
female loveliness was an all-potent spell, and, depressing as were
the circumstances of her life and situation, she felt that a
brighter lot might be hers, without any very remarkable or seemingly
inconsistent course of events.



CHAPTER XII.


"Harriet, bring me a cup of strong coffee."

Dr. Hartwell had returned late in the afternoon of the second day,
and, travel-worn and weary, threw himself down on the sofa in his
study. There was a pale severity in his face which told that his
reflections during his brief absence had been far from pleasant, and
as he swept back the hair from his forehead, and laid his head on
the cushion, the whole countenance bespoke the bitterness of a proud
but miserable man. He remained for some time with closed eyes, and
when the coffee was served drank it without comment. Harriet busied
herself about the room, doing various unnecessary things, and
wondering why her master did not inquire concerning home affairs.
Finally, having exhausted every pretext for lingering, she coughed
very spasmodically once or twice, and, putting her hand on the knob
of the door, said deferentially:

"Do you want anything else, sir? The bathroom is all ready."

"Has my sister been to the asylum?"

"No, sir."

"Go and arrange Beulah's room."

She retired; and, springing up, he paced the floor, striving to
master the emotion which so unwontedly agitated him. His lips
writhed, and the thin nostrils expanded, but he paused before the
melodeon, sat down and played several pieces, and gradually the
swollen veins on his brow lost their corded appearance, and the
mouth resumed its habitual compression. Then, with an exterior as
calm as the repose of death, he took his hat, and went toward the
parlor. Mr. Lockhart was reclining on one of the sofas, Pauline sat
on an ottoman near him, looking over a book of prints, and Mrs.
Chilton, tastefully attired, occupied the piano-stool. Witching
strains of music greeted her brother, as he stopped at the door and
looked in. In the mirror opposite she saw his image reflected, and
for an instant her heart beat rapidly; but the delicate fingers flew
over the keys as skillfully as before, and only the firm setting of
the teeth betokened the coming struggle. He entered, and, walking up
to the invalid, said cordially:

"How are you, Percy? better, I hope." While one hand clasped his
friend's, the other was laid with brotherly freedom on the sick
man's head.

"Of course I am. There was no malady in Eden, was there? Verily,
Guy, in your delightful home, I am growing well again."

"Ah! so much for not possessing Ithuriel's spear. I am glad to find
you free from fever."

"Howd'y-do, uncle! Don't you see me?" said Pauline, reaching up her
hand.

"It is always hard to find you, Pauline; you are such a demure,
silent little body," said he, shaking her hand kindly.

"Welcome, Guy! I expected you yesterday. What detained you so long?"
Mrs. Chilton approached with outstretched hand, and at the same time
offered her lips for a kiss.

He availed himself of neither, but, fixing his eyes intently on
hers, said as sweetly as if he had been soothing a fretful child:

"Necessity, of course; but now that I have come, I shall make
amends, I promise you, for the delay. Percy, has she taken good care
of you?"

"She is an admirable nurse; I can never requite the debt she has
imposed. Is not my convalescence sufficient proof of her superior
skill?" Mr. Lockhart raised himself, and, leaning on his elbow,
suffered his eyes to rest admiringly on the graceful form and
faultless features beside him.

"Are you really so much better?" said Dr. Hartwell, gnawing his lip.

"Indeed I am! Why are you so incredulous? Have you so little
confidence in your own prescriptions?"

"Confidence! I had little enough when given, immeasurably less now.
But we will talk of all this after a little. I have some matters to
arrange, and will be with you at tea. May, I wish to see you."

"Well, Guy, what is it!" Without moving an inch, she looked up at
him.

"Come to my study," answered her brother quietly.

"And leave your patient to amuse himself? Really, Guy, you exercise
the rites of hospitality so rarely that you forget the ordinary
requirements. Apropos, your little protegee has not returned. It
seems she did not fancy living here, and prefers staying at the
asylum. I would not trouble myself about her, if I were you. Some
people cannot appreciate kindness, you know." She uttered this piece
of counsel with perfect sangfroid, and met her brother's eye as
innocently as Pauline would have done.

"I am thoroughly acquainted with her objections to this place, and
determined to remove them so completely that she cannot refused to
return."

A gray pallor crept over his sister's face; but she replied, with
her usual equanimity.

"You have seen her, then? I thought you had hurried back to your
sick friend here, without pausing by the way."

"No! I have not seen her, and, you are aware, her voluntary promise
would seal her lips, even if I had." He smiled contemptuously, as he
saw her puzzled look, and continued: "Percy will excuse you for a
few moments; come with me. Pauline, entertain this gentleman in our
absence."

She took his offered arm, and they proceeded to the study in
silence.

"Sit down." Dr. Hartwell pushed a chair toward her, and stood
looking her fully in the face. She did not shrink, and asked
unconcernedly:

"Well, Guy, to what does all this preamble lead?"

"May, is the doctrine of future punishments laid down as orthodox,
in that elegantly gilded prayer-book you take with you in your
weekly pilgrimages to church?"

"Come, come, Guy; if you have no respect for religion yourself,
don't scoff at its observances in my presence. It is very unkind,
and I will not allow it." She rose, with an air of offended dignity.

"Scoff! You wrong me. Why, verily, your religion is too formidable
to suffer the thought. I tell you, sister mine, your creed is a
terrible one in my eyes." He looked at her with a smile of withering
scorn.

She grew restless under his impaling gaze, and he continued
mockingly:

"From such creeds! such practice! Good Lord deliver us!"

She turned to go, but his hand fell heavily on her shoulder.

"I am acquainted with all that passed between Beulah and yourself
the evening she left my house. I was cognizant of the whole truth
before I left the city."

"Artful wretch! She is as false as contemptible!" muttered the
sister, through set teeth.

"Take care! Do not too hastily apply your own individual standard of
action to others. She does not dream that I am acquainted with the
truth, though doubtless she wonders that, knowing you so well, I
should not suspect it."

"Ah, guided by your favorite Mephistopheles, you wrapped the mantle
of invisibility about you, and heard it all. Eh?"

"No; Mephistopheles is not ubiquitous, and I left him at home here,
it seems, when I took that child to ride. It is difficult for me to
believe you are my sister! very difficult! It is the most
humiliating thought that could possibly be suggested to me. May, I
very nearly decided to send you and Pauline out into the world
without a dime!--without a cent!--just as I found you, and I may do
so yet--"

"You dare not! You dare not! You swore a solemn oath to the dying
that you would always provide for us! I am not afraid of your
breaking your vow!" cried Mrs. Chilton leaning heavily against the
table to support herself.

"You give me credit for too much nicety. I tell you I would break my
oath to-morrow--nay, to-night; for your duplicity cancels it--but
for that orphan you hate so cordially. She would never return if you
and Pauline suffered for the past. For her sake, and hers only, I
will still assist, support you; for have her here I will! if it cost
me life and fortune! I would send you off to the plantation, but
there are no educational advantages there for Pauline; and,
therefore, if Beulah returns, I have resolved to buy and give you a
separate home, wherever you may prefer. Stay here, you cannot and
shall not!"

"And what construction will the world place on your taking a young
girl into your house at the time that I leave it? Guy, with what
marvelous foresight you are endowed!" said she, laughing
sardonically.

"I shall take measures to prevent any improper construction! Mrs.
Watson, the widow of one of my oldest and best friends, has been
left in destitute circumstances, and I shall immediately offer her a
home here, to take charge of my household and look after Beulah when
I am absent. She is an estimable woman, past fifty years of age, and
her character is so irreproachable that her presence here will
obviate the objection you have urged. You will decide to-night where
you wish to fix your future residence, and let me know to-morrow. I
shall not give you longer time for a decision. Meantime, when Beulah
returns you will not allude to the matter. At your peril, May! I
have borne much from you; but, by all that I prize, I swear I will
make you suffer severely if you dare to interfere again. Do not
imagine that I am ignorant of your schemes! I tell you now, I would
gladly see Percy Lockhart lowered into the grave rather than know
that you had succeeded in blinding him! Oh, his noble nature would
loathe you, could he see you as you are. There, go! or I shall
forget that I am talking to a woman--much less a woman claiming to
be my sister! Go! go!" He put up his hands as if unwilling to look
at her, and, leaving the room, descended to the front door. A large
family carriage, drawn by two horses, stood in readiness, and,
seating himself within it, he ordered the coachman to drive to the
asylum. Mrs. Williams met him at the entrance, and, despite her
assumed composure, felt nervous and uncomfortable, for his
scrutinizing look disconcerted her.

"Madam, you are the matron of this institution, I presume. I want to
see Beulah Benton."

"Sir, she saw your carriage, and desired me to say to you that,
though she was very grateful for your kindness, she did not wish to
burden you, and preferred remaining here until she could find some
position which would enable her to support herself. She begs you
will not insist upon seeing her; she does not wish to see you."

"Where is she? I shall not leave the house until I do see her."

She saw from his countenance that it was useless to contend. There
was an unbending look of resolve which said plainly, "Tell me where
to find her, or I shall search for her at once." Secretly pleased at
the prospect of reconciliation, the matron no longer hesitated, and,
pointing to the staircase, said: "She is in the first right-hand
room."

He mounted the steps, opened the door, and entered. Beulah was
standing by the window. She had recognized his step, and knew that
he was in the room, but felt as if she would not meet his eye for
the universe. Yet there was in her heart an intense longing to see
him again. During the two past days she had missed his kind manner
and grave watchfulness, and now, if she had dared to yield to the
impulse that prompted, she would have sprung to meet him and caught
his hand to her lips. He approached, and stood looking at the
drooped face; then his soft, cool touch was on her head, and he said
in his peculiar low, musical tones:

"Proud little spirit, come home and be happy."

She shook her head, saying resolutely:

"I cannot; I have no home. I could not be happy in your house."

"You can be in future. Beulah, I know the whole truth of this
matter. How I discovered it is no concern of yours--you have not
broken your promise. Now, mark me; I make your return to my house
the condition of my sister's pardon. I am not trifling! If you
persist in leaving me, I tell you solemnly I will send her and
Pauline out into the world to work for their daily bread, as you
want to do! If you will come back, I will give them a comfortable
home of their own wherever they may prefer to live, and see that
they are always well cared for. But they shall not remain in my
house whether you come or not. I am in earnest! Look at me; you know
I never say what I do not mean. I want you to come back; I ask you
to come with me now. I am lonely; my home is dark and desolate.
Come, my child; come!" He held her hands in his, and drew her gently
toward him. She looked eagerly into his face, and, as she noted the
stern sadness that marred its noble beauty, the words of his sister
flashed upon her memory: He had been married! Was it the loss of his
wife that had so darkened his elegant home?--that gave such
austerity to the comparatively youthful face? She gazed into the
deep eyes till she grew dizzy, and answered indistinctly:

"I have no claim on you--will not be the means of parting you and
your sister. You have Pauline; make her your child."

"Henceforth my sister and myself are parted, whether you will it or
not, whether you come back or otherwise. Once for all, if you would
serve her, come, for on this condition only will I provide for her.
Pauline does not suit me; you do. I can make you a friend, in some
sort a companion. Beulah, you want to come to me; I see it in your
eyes; but I see too that you want conditions. What are they?"

"Will you always treat Pauline just as kindly as if you had never
taken me to your house?"

"Except having a separate home, she shall never know any difference.
I promise you this. What else?"

"Will you let me go to the public school instead of Madam St.
Cymon's?"

"Why, pray?"

"Because the tuition is free."

"And you are too proud to accept any aid from me?"

"No, sir; I want your counsel and guidance, and I want to be with
you to show you that I do thank you for all your goodness; but I
want to cost you as little as possible."

"You do not expect to depend on me always, then?" said he, smiling
despite himself.

"No, sir; only till I am able to teach. If you are willing to do
this, I shall be glad to go back, very glad; but not unless you
are." She looked as firm as her guardian.

"Better stipulate also that you are to wear nothing more expensive
than bit calico." He seemed much amused.

"Indeed, sir, I am not jesting at all. If you will take care of me
while I am educating myself, I shall be very grateful to you; but I
am not going to be adopted."

"Very well. Then I will try to take care of you. I have signed your
treaty; are you ready to come home?"

"Yes, sir; glad to come." Her fingers closed confidingly over his,
and they joined Mrs. Williams in the hall below. A brief explanation
from Beulah sufficed for the rejoicing matron, and soon she was
borne rapidly from the asylum. Dr. Hartwell was silent until they
reached home, and Beulah was going to her own room, when he asked
suddenly:

"What was it that you wished to ask me about the evening of the
ride?"

"That I might go to the public school."

"What put that into your head?" "As an independent orphan, I am
insulted at Madam St. Cymon's."

"By whom?" His eyes flashed.

"No matter now, sir."

"By whom? I ask you."

"Not by Pauline. She would scorn to be guilty of anything so
ungenerous."

"You do not mean to answer my question, then?"

"No, sir. Do not ask me to do so, for I cannot."

"Very well. Get ready for tea. Mr. Lockhart is here. One word more.
You need fear no further interference from anyone."

He walked on, and, glad to be released, Beulah hastened to her own
room, with a strange feeling of joy on entering it again. Harriet
welcomed her warmly, and, without alluding to her absence, assisted
in braiding the heavy masses of hair, which required arranging. Half
an hour after, Dr. Hartwell knocked at the door, and conducted her
downstairs. Mrs. Chilton rose and extended her hand, with an
amicable expression of countenance for which Beulah was not
prepared. She could not bring herself to accept the hand, but her
salutation was gravely polite.

"Good-evening, Mrs. Chilton."

Mr. Lockhart made room for her on the sofa; and, quietly ensconced
in one corner, she sat for some time so engaged in listening to the
general conversation that the bitter recollection of by-gone trials
was entirely banished. Dr. Hartwell and his friend were talking of
Europe, and the latter, after recounting much of interest in
connection with his former visits, said earnestly:

"Go with me this time, Guy; one tour cannot have satiated you. It
will be double, nay, triple, enjoyment to have you along. It is, and
always has been, a mystery to me why you should persist in
practicing. You do not need the pecuniary aid; your income would
enable you to live just as you pleased. Life is short at best. Why
not glean all of pleasure that travel affords to a nature like
yours? Your sister was just telling me that in a few days she goes
North to place Pauline at some celebrated school, and, without her,
you will be desolate. Come, let's to Europe together. What do you
say?"

Dr. Hartwell received this intimation of his sister's plans without
the slightest token of surprise, and smiled sarcastically as he
replied:

"Percy, I shall answer you in the words of a favorite author of the
day. He says, 'It is for want of self-culture that the superstition
of traveling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its
fascination for all educated Americans. He who travels to be amused,
or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from
himself, and grows old, even in youth, among--old things. In Thebes,
in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as
they. He carries ruins to ruins. Traveling is a fool's paradise. At
home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with
beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embark, and finally
wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad
self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I affect to be
intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not. My giant goes
with me wherever I go.' Percy, I endeavored to drown my giant in the
Mediterranean; to bury it forever beneath the green waters of Lago
Maggiore; to hurl it from solemn, icy, Alpine heights; to dodge it
in museums of art; but, as Emerson says, it clung to me with
unerring allegiance, and I came home. And now, daily and yearly, I
repeat the hopeless experiment, in my round of professional duties.
Yes, May and Pauline are going away, but I shall have Beulah to look
after, and I fancy time will not drag its wheels through coming
years. How soon do you think of leaving America? I have some
commissions for you when you start."

"I hope I shall be able to go North within a fortnight, and, after a
short visit to Newport or Saratoga, sail for Havre. What do you want
from the great storehouse of art, sculpture, and paintings, cameos
and prints?"

"I will furnish you with a catalogue. Do you go through Germany, or
only flaunt, butterfly-like, under the sunny skies of the Levant?"

"I have, as yet, no settled plans; but probably before I return
shall explore Egypt, Syria, and Arabia. Do you want anything from
the dying world? From Dendera, Carnac, or that city of rock, lonely,
silent, awful Petra?"

"Not I. The flavor of Sodom is too prevalent. But there are a few
localities that I shall ask you to sketch for me."

Subsequently, Mr. Lockhart requested Beulah to sing her forest song
for him again. The blood surged quickly into her face, and, not
without confusion, she begged him to excuse her. He insisted, and
tried to draw her from her seat; but, sinking further back into the
corner, she assured him she could not; she never sang, except when
alone. Dr. Hartwell smiled, and, looking at her curiously, said:

"I never heard her even attempt to sing. Beulah, why will you not
try to oblige him?"

"Oh, sir! my songs are all connected with sorrows. I could not sing
them now; indeed, I could not." And as the memory of Lilly, hushed
by her lullaby, rose vividly before her, she put her hands over her
eyes and wept quietly.

"When you come home from your Oriental jaunt, she will be able to
comply with your request. Meantime, Percy, come into the study; I
want a cigar and game of chess."

Beulah quitted the parlor at the same time, and was mounting the
steps, when she heard Mr. Lockhart ask:

"Guy, what are you going to do with that solemn-looking child?"

"Going to try to show her that the world is not altogether made up
of brutes." She heard no more; but, long after she laid her head
upon the pillow, pondered on the kind fate which gave her so
considerate, so generous a guardian; and, in the depths of her
gratitude, she vowed to show him that she reverenced and honored
him.



CHAPTER XIII


Three years passed swiftly, unmarked by any incidents of interest,
and one dreary night in December Beulah sat in Dr. Hartwell's study,
wondering what detained him so much, later than usual. The lamp
stood on the tea-table, and the urn awaited the master's return. The
room, with its books, statues, paintings, and melodeon, was
unaltered, but time had materially changed the appearance of the
orphan. She had grown tall, and the mazarine blue merino dress
fitted the slender form with scrupulous exactness. The luxuriant
black hair was combed straight back from the face, and wound into a
circular knot, which covered the entire back of the head, and gave a
classical outline to the whole. The eyelashes were longer and
darker, the complexion had lost its sickly hue, and, though there
was no bloom on the cheeks, they were clear and white. I have spoken
before of the singular conformation of the massive brow, and now the
style in which she wore her hair fully exposed the outline. The
large gray eyes had lost their look of bitterness, but more than
ever they were grave, earnest, restless, and searching; indexing a
stormy soul. The whole countenance betokened that rare combination
of mental endowments, that habitual train of deep, concentrated
thought, mingled with somewhat dark passion, which characterizes the
eagerly inquiring mind that struggles to lift itself far above
common utilitarian themes. The placid element was as wanting in her
physiognomy as in her character, and even the lines of the mouth
gave evidence of strength and restlessness, rather than peace.
Before her lay a book on geometry, and, engrossed by study, she was
unobservant of Dr. Hartwell's entrance. Walking up to the grate, he
warmed his fingers, and then, with his hands behind him, stood still
on the rug, regarding his protegee attentively. He looked precisely
as he had done more than three years before, when he waited at Mrs.
Martin's, watching little Johnny and his nurse. The colorless face
seemed as if chiseled out of ivory, and stern gravity, blended with
bitterness, was enthroned on the lofty, unfurrowed brow. He looked
at the girl intently, as he would have watched a patient to whom he
had administered a dubious medicine and felt some curiosity
concerning the result.

"Beulah, put up your book and make the tea, will you?"

She started up, and, seating herself before the urn, said joyfully:

"Good-evening! I did not know you had come home. You look cold,
sir."

"Yes, it is deucedly cold; and, to mend the matter, Mazeppa must
needs slip on the ice in the gutter and lame himself. Knew, too, I
should want him again to-night." He drew a chair to the table and
received his tea from her hand, for it was one of his whims to
dismiss Mrs. Watson and the servants at this meal, and have only
Beulah present.

"Who is so ill as to require a second visit to-night?"

She very rarely asked anything relative to his professional
engagements, but saw that he was more than usually interested.

"Why, that quiet little Quaker friend of yours, Clara Sanders, will
probably lose her grandfather this time. He had a second paralytic
stroke to-day, and I doubt whether he survives till morning."

"Are any of Clara's friends with her?" asked Beulah quickly.

"Some two or three of the neighbors. What now?" he continued as she
rose from the table.

"I am going to get ready and go with you when you return."

"Nonsense! The weather is too disagreeable; and, besides, you can do
no good; the old man is unconscious. Don't think of it."

"But I must think of it, and what is more, you must carry me, if you
please. I shall not mind the cold, and I know Clara would rather
have me with her, even though I could render no assistance. Will you
carry me? I shall thank you very much." She stood on the threshold.

"And if I will not carry you?" he answered questioningly.

"Then, sir, though sorry to disobey you, I shall be forced to walk
there."

"So I supposed. You may get ready."

"Thank you." She hurried off to wrap up for the ride and acquaint
Mrs. Watson with the cause of her temporary absence. On re-entering
the study she found the doctor lying on the sofa, with one hand over
his eyes. Without removing it he tossed a letter to her, saying:

"There is a letter from Heidelberg. I had almost forgotten it. You
will have time to read it; the buggy is not ready." He moved his
fingers slightly, so as to see her distinctly, while she tore off
the envelope and perused it. At first she looked pleased; then the
black eyebrows met over the nose, and as she refolded it there was a
very decided curl in the compressed upper lip. She put it into her
pocket without comment.

"Eugene is well, I suppose?" said the doctor, still shading his
eyes.

"Yes, sir; quite well."

"Does he seem to be improving his advantages?"

"I should judge not, from the tone of this letter."

"What does it indicate?"

"That he thinks of settling down into mercantile life on his return;
as if he needed to go to Germany to learn to keep books." She spoke
hastily and with much chagrin.

"And why not? Germany is par excellence the land of book-making, and
book-reading; why not of bookkeeping?"

"German proficiency is not the question, sir."

Dr. Hartwell smiled, and, passing his fingers through his hair,
replied:

"You intend to annihilate that plebeian project of his, then?"

"His own will must govern him, sir; over that I have no power."

"Still you will use your influence in favor of a learned
profession?"

"Yes, sir; if I have any."

"Take care your ambitious pride does not ruin you both. There is the
buggy. Be so good as to give me my fur gauntlets out of the drawer
of my desk. That will do; come."

The ride was rather silent. Beulah spoke several times, but was
answered in a manner which informed her that her guardian was in a
gloomy mood and did not choose to talk. He was to her as
inexplicable as ever. She felt that the barrier which divided them,
instead of melting away with long and intimate acquaintance, had
strengthened and grown impenetrable. Kind but taciturn, she knew
little of his opinions on any of the great questions which began to
agitate her own mind. For rather more than three years they had
spent their evenings together; she in studying, he in reading or
writing. Of his past life she knew absolutely nothing, for no
unguarded allusion to it ever escaped his lips. As long as she had
lived in his house, he had never mentioned his wife's name, and but
for his sister's words she would have been utterly ignorant of his
marriage. Whether the omission was studied, or merely the result of
abstraction, she could only surmise. Once, when sitting around the
fire, a piece of crape fell upon the hearth from the shrouded
portrait. He stooped down, picked it up, and, without glancing at
the picture, threw the fragment into the grate. She longed to see
the covered face, but dared not unfasten the sable folds, which had
grown rusty with age. Sometimes she fancied her presence annoyed
him; but if she absented herself at all during the evening he
invariably inquired the cause. He had most scrupulously avoided all
reference to matters of faith; she had endeavored several times to
direct the conversation to religious topics, but he adroitly eluded
her efforts, and abstained from any such discussion; and though on
Sabbath she generally accompanied Mrs. Watson to church, he never
alluded to it. Occasionally, when more than ordinarily fatigued by
the labors of the day, he had permitted her to read aloud to him
from some of his favorite volumes, and these brief glimpses had
given her an intense longing to pursue the same paths of
investigation. She revered and admired him; nay, she loved him; but
it was more earnest gratitude than genuine affection. Love casteth
out fear, and most certainly she feared him. She had entered her
seventeenth year, and, feeling that she was no longer a child, her
pride sometimes rebelled at the calm, commanding manner he
maintained toward her.

They found Clara kneeling beside her insensible grandfather, while
two or three middle-aged ladies sat near the hearth, talking in
undertones. Beulah put her arms tenderly around her friend ere she
was aware of her presence, and the cry of blended woe and gladness
with which Clara threw herself on Beulah's bosom told her how well-
timed that presence was. Three years of teaching and care had worn
the slight young form, and given a troubled, strained, weary look to
the fair face. Thin, pale, and tearful, she clung to Beulah, and
asked, in broken accents, what would become of her when the aged
sleeper was no more.

"Our good God remains to you, Clara. I was a shorn lamb, and he
tempered the winds for me. I was very miserable, but he did not
forsake me."

Clara looked at the tall form of the physician, and, while her eyes
rested upon him with a species of fascination, she murmured:

"Yes, you have been blessed indeed! You have him. He guards and
cares for your happiness; but I, oh, I am alone!"

"You told me he had promised to be your friend. Best assured he will
prove himself such," answered Beulah, watching Clara's countenance
as she spoke.

"Yes, I know; but--" She paused, and averted her head, for just then
he drew near and said gravely:

"Beulah, take Miss Clara to her own room, and persuade her to rest.
I shall remain probably all night; at least until some change takes
place."

"Don't send me away," pleaded Clara mournfully.

"Go, Beulah; it is for her own good." She saw that he was
unrelenting, and complied without opposition. In the seclusion of
her room she indulged in a passionate burst of grief, and, thinking
it was best thus vented, Beulah paced up and down the floor,
listening now to the convulsive sobs, and now to the rain which
pelted the window-panes. She was two years younger than her
companion, yet felt that she was immeasurably stronger. Often during
their acquaintance a painful suspicion had crossed her mind; as
often she had banished it, but now it haunted her with a pertinacity
which she could not subdue. While her feet trod the chamber floor,
memory trod the chambers of the past, and gathered up every link
which could strengthen the chain of evidence. Gradually dim
conjecture became sad conviction, and she was conscious of a degree
of pain and sorrow for which she could not readily account. If Clara
loved Dr. Hartwell, why should it grieve her? Her step grew
nervously rapid, and the eyes settled upon the carpet with a
fixedness of which she was unconscious. Suppose he was double her
age, if Clara loved him notwithstanding, what business was it of
hers? Besides, no one would dream of the actual disparity in years,
for he was a very handsome man, and certainly did not look more than
ten years older. True, Clara was not very intellectual, and he was
particularly fond of literary pursuits; but had not she heard him
say that it was a singular fact in anthropology that men selected
their opposites for wives? She did not believe her guardian ever
thought of Clara save when in her presence. But how did she know
anything about his thoughts and fancies, his likes and dislikes? He
had never even spoken of his marriage--was it probable that the
subject of a second love would have escaped him? All this passed
rapidly in her mind, and when Clara called her to sit down on the
couch beside her, she started as from a painful dream. While her
friend talked sadly of the future, Beulah analyzed her features, and
came to the conclusion that it would be a very easy matter to love
her; the face was so sweet and gentle, the manner so graceful, the
tone so musical and winning. Absorbed in thought, neither noted the
lapse of time. Midnight passed; two o'clock came; and then at three
a knock startled the watchers. Clara sprang to the door; Dr.
Hartwell pointed to the sickroom, and said gently:

"He has ceased to suffer. He is at rest."

She looked at him vacantly an instant, and whispered, under her
breath: "He is not dead?"

He did not reply, and, with a frightened expression, she glided into
the chamber of death, calling piteously on the sleeper to come back
and shield her. Beulah would have followed, but the doctor detained
her.

"Not yet, child. Not yet."

As if unconscious of the act, he passed his arm around her
shoulders, and drew her close to him. She looked up in astonishment,
but his eyes were fixed on the kneeling figure in the room opposite,
and she saw that, just then, he was thinking of anything else than
her presence.

"Are you going home now, sir?"

"Yes; but you must stay with that poor girl yonder. Can't you
prevail on her to come and spend a few days with you?"

"I rather think not," answered Beulah, resolved not to try.

"You look pale, my child. Watching is not good for you. It is a long
time since you have seen death. Strange that people will not see it
as it is. Passing strange."

"What do you mean?" said she, striving to interpret the smile that
wreathed his lips.

"You will not believe if I tell you. 'Life is but the germ of Death,
and Death the development of a higher Life.'"

"Higher in the sense of heavenly immortality?"

"You may call it heavenly if you choose. Stay here till the funeral
is over, and I will send for you. Are you worn out, child?" He had
withdrawn his arm, and now looked anxiously at her colorless face.

"No, sir."

"Then why are you so very pale?"

"Did you ever see me, sir, when I was anything else?"

"I have seen you look less ghostly. Good-by." He left the house
without even shaking hands.

The day which succeeded was very gloomy, and, after the funeral
rites had been performed, and the second day looked in, Beulah's
heart rejoiced at the prospect of returning home. Clara shrank from
the thought of being left alone, the little cottage was so desolate.
She would give it up now, of course, and find a cheap boarding
house; but the furniture must be rubbed and sent down to an auction
room, and she dreaded the separation from all the objects which
linked her with the past.

"Clara, I have been commissioned to invite you to spend several days
with me, until you can select a boarding house. Dr. Hartwell will be
glad to have you come."

"Did he say so?" asked the mourner, shading her face with her hand.

"He told me I must bring you home with me," answered Beulah.

"Oh, how good, how noble he is! Beulah, you are lucky, lucky
indeed." She dropped her head on her arms.

"Clara, I believe there is less difference in our positions than you
seem to imagine. We are both orphans, and in about a year I too
shall be a teacher. Dr. Hartwell is my guardian and protector, but
he will be a kind friend to you also."

"Beulah, you are mad to dream of leaving him and turning teacher! I
am older than you, and have traveled over the very track that you
are so eager to set out upon. Oh, take my advice; stay where you
are! Would you leave summer sunshine for the icebergs of Arctic
night? Silly girl, appreciate your good fortune."

"Can it be possible, Clara, that you are fainting so soon? Where are
all your firm resolves? If it is your duty, what matter the
difficulties?" She looked down pityingly on her companion, as in
olden time one of the athletae might have done upon a drooping
comrade.

"Necessity knows no conditions, Beulah. I have no alternative but to
labor in that horrible treadmill round, day after day. You are more
fortunate; can have a home of elegance, luxury, and--"

"And dependence! Would you be willing to change places with me, and
indolently wait for others to maintain you?" interrupted Beulah,
looking keenly at the wan, yet lovely, face before her.

"Ah, gladly, if I had been selected as you were. Once I too felt
hopeful and joyous; but now life is dreary, almost a burden. Be
warned, Beulah; don't suffer your haughty spirit to make you reject
the offered home that may be yours."

There was a strong approach to contempt in the expression with which
Beulah regarded her, as the last words were uttered, and she
answered coldly:

"You are less a woman than I thought you, if you would be willing to
live on the bounty of others when a little activity would enable you
to support yourself."

"Ah, Beulah! it is not only the bread you eat, or the clothes that
you wear; it is sympathy and kindness, love and watchfulness. It is
this that a woman wants. Oh, was her heart made, think you, to be
filled with grammars and geographies and copy-books? Can the feeling
that you are independent and doing your duty satisfy the longing for
other idols? Oh, Duty is an icy shadow! It will freeze you. It
cannot fill the heart's sanctuary. Woman was intended as a pet
plant, to be guarded and cherished; isolated and uncared for, she
droops, languishes, and dies." Ah! the dew-sparkle had exhaled and
the morning glory had vanished; the noontide heat of the conflict
was creeping on, and she was sinking down, impotent to continue the
struggle.

"Clara Sanders, I don't believe one word of all this languishing
nonsense. As to my being nothing more nor less than a sickly
geranium, I know better. If you have concluded that you belong to
that dependent family of plants, I pity you sincerely, and beg that
you will not put me in any such category. Duty may be a cold shadow
to you, but it is a vast volcanic agency constantly impelling me to
action. What was my will given to me for, if to remain passive and
suffer others to minister to its needs? Don't talk to me about
woman's clinging, dependent nature. You are opening your lips to
repeat that senseless simile of oaks and vines; I don't want to hear
it; there are no creeping tendencies about me. You can wind, and
lean, and hang on somebody else if you like; but I feel more like
one of those old pine trees yonder. I can stand up. Very slim, if
you will, but straight and high. Stand by myself; battle with wind
and rain and tempest roar; be swayed and bent, perhaps, in the
storm, but stand unaided, nevertheless, I feel humbled when I hear a
woman bemoaning the weakness of her sex, instead of showing that she
has a soul and mind of her own inferior to none."

"All that sounds very heroic in the pages of a novel, but the
reality is quite another matter. A tame, joyless, hopeless time you
will have if you scorn good fortune, as you threaten, and go into
the world to support yourself," answered Clara impatiently.

"I would rather struggle with her for a crust than hang on her
garments asking a palace. I don't know what has come over you. You
are strangely changed!" cried Beulah, pressing her hands on her
friend's shoulders.

"The same change will come over you when you endure what I have.
With all your boasted strength, you are but a woman; have a woman's
heart, and one day will be unable to hush its hungry cries."

"Then I will crush it, so help me Heaven!" answered Beulah.

"No! sorrow will do that time enough; no suicidal effort will be
necessary." For the first time Beulah marked an expression of
bitterness in the usually gentle, quiet countenance. She was pained
more than she chose to evince, and, seeing Dr. Hartwell's carriage
at the door, prepared to return home.

"Tell him that I am very grateful for his kind offer; that his
friendly remembrance is dear to a bereaved orphan. Ah, Beulah! I
have known him from my childhood, and he has always been a friend as
well as a physician. During my mother's long illness he watched her
carefully and constantly, and when we tendered him the usual
recompense for his services he refused all remuneration, declaring
he had only been a friend. He knew we were poor, and could ill
afford any expense. Oh, do you wonder that I--Are you going
immediately? Come often when I get to a boarding house. Do, Beulah!
I am so desolate; so desolate!" She bowed her head on Beulah's
shoulder and wept unrestrainedly.

"Yes, I will come as often as I can; and, Clara, do try to cheer up.
I can't bear to see you sink down in this way." She kissed the
tearful face and hurried away.

It was Saturday, and, retiring to her own room, she answered
Eugene's brief letter. Long before she had seen with painful anxiety
that he wrote more and more rarely, and, while his communications
clearly conveyed the impression that he fancied they were essential
to her happiness, the protective tenderness of early years gave
place to a certain commanding yet condescending tone. Intuitively
perceiving, yet unable to analyze this gradual revolution of
feeling, Beulah was sometimes tempted to cut short the
correspondence. But her long and ardent attachment drowned the
whispers of wounded pride, and hallowed memories of his boyish love
ever prevented an expression of the pain and wonder with which she
beheld the alteration in his character. Unwilling to accuse him of
the weakness which prompted much of his arrogance and egotism, her
heart framed various excuses for his seeming coldness. At first she
had written often, and without reference to ordinary epistolary
debts; but now she regularly waited (and that for some time) for the
arrival of his letters; not from a diminution of affection so much
as from true womanly delicacy, lest she should obtrude herself too
frequently upon his notice. More than once she had been troubled by
a dawning consciousness of her own superiority; but, accustomed for
years to look up to him as a sort of infallible guide, she would not
admit the suggestion, and tried to keep alive the admiring respect
with which she had been wont to defer to his judgment. He seemed to
consider his dogmatic dictation both acceptable and necessary, and
it was this assumed mastery, unaccompanied with manifestations of
former tenderness, which irritated and aroused her pride. With the
brush of youthful imagination she had painted him as the future
statesman--gifted, popular, and revered; and while visions of his
fame and glory flitted before her the promise of sharing all with
her was by no means the least fascinating feature in her fancy
picture. Of late, however, he had ceased to speak of the choice of a
profession, and mentioned vaguely Mr. Graham's wish that he should
acquaint himself thoroughly with French, German, and Spanish, in
order to facilitate the correspondence of the firm with foreign
houses. She felt that once embarked on the sea of mercantile life he
would have little leisure or inclination to pursue the paths which
she hoped to travel by his side, and, on this occasion, her letter
was longer and more earnest than usual, urging his adherence to the
original choice of the law and using every forcible argument she
could adduce. Finally the reply was sealed and directed, and she
went down to the study to place it in the marble receiver which
stood on her guardian's desk. Hal, who accompanied the doctor in his
round of visits, always took their letters to the post office, and
punctually deposited all directed to them in the vase. To her
surprise she found no fire in the grate. The blinds were drawn
closely, and, in placing her letter on the desk, she noticed several
addressed to the doctor and evidently unopened. They must have
arrived the day before, and while she wondered at the aspect of the
room Harriet entered.

"Miss Beulah, do you know how long master expects to be gone? I
thought maybe you could tell when you came home, for Mrs. Watson
does not seem to know any more than I do."

"Gone! What do you mean?"

"Don't you know he has gone up the river to the plantation? Why, I
packed his valise at daylight yesterday, and he left in the early
morning boat. He has not been to the plantation since just before
you came here. Hal says he heard him tell Dr. Asbury to take charge
of his patients, that his overseer had to be looked after. He told
me he was going to the plantation, and I would have asked him when
he was coming back, but he was in one of his unsatisfactory ways--
looked just like his mouth had been dipped in hot sealing-wax, so I
held my tongue."

Beulah bit her lips with annoyance, but sat down before the
melodeon, and said as unconcernedly as possible:

"I did not know he had left the city, and, of course, have no idea
when he will be back. Harriet, please make me a fire here, or call
Hal to do it."

"There is a good fire in the dining room; better go in there and sit
with Mrs. Watson. She is busy seeding raisins for mincemeat and
fruit-cake."

"No; I would rather stay here."

"Then I will kindle you a fire right away."

Harriet moved about the room with cheerful alacrity. She had always
seemed to consider herself Beulah's special guardian and friend, and
gave continual proof of the strength of her affection. Evidently she
desired to talk about her master, but Beulah's face gave her no
encouragement to proceed. She made several efforts to renew the
conversation, but they were not seconded, and she withdrew,
muttering to herself:

"She is learning all his ways. He does hate to talk any more than he
can help, and she is patterning after him just as fast as she can.
They don't seem to know what the Lord gave them tongues for."

Beulah practiced perseveringly for some time, and then, drawing a
chair near the fire, sat down and leaned her head on her hand. She
missed her guardian--wanted to see him--felt surprised at his sudden
departure and mortified that he had not thought her of sufficient
consequence to bid adieu to and be apprised of his intended trip. He
treated her precisely as he did when she first entered the house;
seemed to consider her a mere child, whereas she knew she was no
longer such. He never alluded to her plan of teaching, and when she
chanced to mention it he offered no comment, looked indifferent or
abstracted. Though invariably kind, and sometimes humorous, there
was an impenetrable reserve respecting himself, his past and future,
which was never laid aside. When not engaged with his flowers or
music, he was deep in some favorite volume, and, outside of these
sources of enjoyment, seemed to derive no real pleasure.
Occasionally he had visitors, but these were generally strangers,
often persons residing at a distance, and Beulah knew nothing of
them. Several times he had attended concerts and lectures, but she
had never accompanied him; and frequently, when sitting by his side,
felt as if a glacier lay between them. After Mrs. Chilton's
departure for New York, where she and Pauline were boarding, no
ladies ever came to the house, except a few of middle age, who
called now and then to see Mrs. Watson, and, utterly isolated from
society, Beulah was conscious of entire ignorance of all that passed
in polite circles. Twice Claudia had called, but, unable to forget
the past sufficiently to enter Mrs. Grayson's house, their
intercourse had ended with Claudia's visits. Mrs. Watson was a kind-
hearted and most excellent woman, who made an admirable housekeeper,
but possessed few of the qualifications requisite to render her an
agreeable companion. With an ambitious nature, and an eager thirst
for knowledge, Beulah had improved her advantages as only those do
who have felt the need of them. While she acquired, with unusual
ease and rapidity, the branches of learning taught at school, she
had availed herself of the extensive and select library, to which
she had free access, and history, biography, travels, essays, and
novels had been perused with singular avidity. Dr. Hartwell, without
restricting her reading, suggested the propriety of incorporating
more of the poetic element in her course. The hint was timely, and
induced an acquaintance with the great bards of England and Germany,
although her taste led her to select works of another character. Her
secluded life favored habits of study, and, at an age when girls are
generally just beginning to traverse the fields of literature, she
had progressed so far as to explore some of the footpaths which
entice contemplative minds from the beaten track. With earlier
cultivation and superiority of years, Eugene had essayed to direct
her reading; but now, in point of advancement, she felt that she was
in the van. Dr. Hartwell had told her, whenever she was puzzled, to
come to him for explanation, and his clear analysis taught her how
immeasurably superior he was, even to those instructors whose
profession it was to elucidate mysteries. Accustomed to seek
companionship in books, she did not, upon the present occasion, long
reflect on her guardian's sudden departure, but took from the
shelves a volume of Poe which contained her mark. The parting rays
of the winter sun grew fainter; the dull, somber light of vanishing
day made the room dim, and it was only by means of the red glare
from the glowing grate that she deciphered the print. Finally the
lamp was brought in, and shed a mellow radiance over the dusky
apartment. The volume was finished and dropped upon her lap. The
spell of this incomparable sorcerer was upon her imagination; the
sluggish, lurid tarn of Usher; the pale, gigantic water lilies,
nodding their ghastly, everlasting heads over the dreary Zaire; the
shrouding shadow of Helusion; the ashen skies, and sere, crisped
leaves in the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir, hard by the dim lake
of Auber--all lay with grim distinctness before her; and from the
red bars of the grate the wild, lustrous, appalling eyes of Ligeia
looked out at her, while the unearthly tones of Morella whispered
from every corner of the room. She rose and replaced the book on the
shelf, striving to shake off the dismal hold which all this
phantasmagoria had taken on her fancy. Her eyes chanced to fall upon
a bust of Athene which surmounted her guardian's desk, and
immediately the mournful refrain of the Raven, solemn and dirge-
like, floated through the air, enhancing the spectral element which
enveloped her. She retreated to the parlor, and, running her fingers
over the keys of the piano, endeavored by playing some of her
favorite airs to divest her mind of the dreary, unearthly images
which haunted it. The attempt was futile, and there in the dark,
cold parlor she leaned her head against the piano, and gave herself
up to the guidance of one who, like the "Ancient Mariner," holds his
listener fascinated and breathless. Once her guardian had warned her
not to study Poe too closely, but the book was often in his own
hand, and, yielding to the matchless ease and rapidity of his
diction, she found herself wandering in a wilderness of baffling
suggestions. Under the drapery of "William Wilson," of "Morella,"
and "Ligeia," she caught tantalizing glimpses of recondite
psychological truths and processes, which dimly hovered over her own
consciousness, but ever eluded the grasp of analysis. While his
unique imagery filled her mind with wondering delight, she shrank
appalled from the mutilated fragments which he presented to her as
truths, on the point of his glittering scalpel of logic. With the
eagerness of a child clutching at its own shadow in a glassy lake,
and thereby destroying it, she had read that anomalous prose poem
"Eureka." The quaint humor of that "bottled letter" first arrested
her attention, and, once launched on the sea of Cosmogonies, she was
amazed at the seemingly infallible reasoning which, at the
conclusion, coolly informed her that she was her own God. Mystified,
shocked, and yet admiring, she had gone to Dr. Hartwell for a
solution of the difficulty. False she felt the whole icy tissue to
be, yet could not detect the adroitly disguised sophisms. Instead of
assisting her, as usual, he took the book from her, smiled, and put
it away, saying indifferently:

"You must not play with such sharp tools just yet. Go and practice
your music lesson."

She was too deeply interested to be put off so quietly, and
constantly pondered this singular production, which confirmed in
some degree a fancy of her own concerning the pre-existence of the
soul. Only on the hypothesis of an anterior life could she explain
some of the mental phenomena which puzzled her. Heedless of her
guardian's warning, she had striven to comprehend the philosophy of
this methodical madman, and now felt bewildered and restless. This
study of Poe was the portal through which she entered the vast
Pantheon of Speculation.



CHAPTER XIV.


A week later, at the close of a dull winter day, Beulah sat as usual
in the study. The large parlors and dining room had a desolate look
at all times, and of the whole house only the study seemed genial.
Busily occupied during the day, it was not until evening that she
realized her guardian's absence. No tidings of him had been
received, and she began to wonder at his prolonged stay. She felt
very lonely without him, and, though generally taciturn, she missed
him from the hearth, missed the tall form and the sad, stern face.
Another Saturday had come, and all day she had been with Clara in
her new home, trying to cheer the mourner and dash away the gloom
that seemed settling down upon her spirits. At dusk she returned
home, spent an hour at the piano, and now walked up and down the
study, wrapt in thought. The room had a cozy, comfortable aspect;
the fire burned brightly; the lamplight silvered the paintings and
statues; and on the rug before the grate lay a huge black dog of the
St. Bernard order, his shaggy head thrust between his paws. The
large, intelligent eyes followed Beulah as she paced to and fro, and
seemed mutely to question her restlessness. His earnest scrutiny
attracted her notice, and she held out her hand, saying musingly:

"Poor Charon; you too miss your master. Charon, King of Shadows,
when will he come?"

The great black eyes gazed intently into hers, and seemed to echo,
"When will he come?" He lifted his grim head, snuffed the air,
listened, and sullenly dropped his face on his paws again. Beulah
threw herself on the rug, and laid her head on his thick neck; he
gave a quick, short bark of satisfaction, and very soon both girl
and dog were fast asleep. A quarter of an hour glided by, and then
Beulah was suddenly roused by a violent motion of her pillow. Charon
sprang up, and leaped frantically across the room. The comb which
confined her hair had fallen out, and, gathering up the jetty folds
which swept over her shoulders, she looked around. Dr. Hartwell was
closing the door.

"Down, Charon; you ebon scamp! Down, you keeper of Styx!" He forced
down the paws from his shoulders, and patted the shaggy head, while
his eyes rested affectionately on the delightful countenance of his
sable favorite. As he threw down his gloves, his eyes fell on
Beulah, who had hastily risen from the rug, and he held out his
hand, saying

"Ah! Charon waked you rudely. How are you?"

"Very well, thank you, sir. I am so glad you have come home, so
glad." She took his cold hand between both hers, rubbed it
vigorously, and looked up joyfully in his face. She thought he was
paler and more haggard than she had ever seen him, his hair
clustered in disorder about his forehead, his whole aspect was weary
and wretched. He suffered her to keep his hand in her warm, tight
clasp, and asked kindly.

"Are you well, Beulah? Your face is flushed, and you feel feverish."

"Perfectly well. But you are as cold as an Esquimaux hunter. Come to
the fire." She drew his armchair, with its candle-stand and book-
board, close to the hearth, and put his warm velvet slippers before
him. She forgot her wounded pride, forgot that he had left without
even bidding her good by, and only remembered that he had come home
again, that he was sitting there in the study, and she would be
lonely no more. Silently leaning back in the chair, he closed his
eyes with a sigh of relief. She felt as if she would like very much
to smooth off the curling hair that lay thick and damp on his white,
gleaming brow, but dared not. She stood watching him for a moment,
and said considerately.

"Will you have your tea now? Charon and I had our supper long ago."

"No, child, I only want to rest."

Beulah fancied he spoke impatiently. Had she been too officious in
welcoming him to his own home? She bit her lip with proud vexation,
and, taking her geometry, left him. As she reached the door the
doctor called to her.

"Beulah, you need not go away. This is a better fire than the one in
your own room." But she was wounded, and did not choose to stay.

"I can study better in my own room. Good-night, sir."

"Why, child, this is Saturday night. No lessons until Monday."

She was not particularly mollified by the reiteration of the word
"child," and answered coldly:

"There are hard lessons for every day we live."

"Well, be good enough to hand me the letters that have arrived
during my absence."

She emptied the letter receiver, and placed several communications
in his hand. He pointed to a chair near the fire, and said quietly:

"Sit down, my child; sit down."

Too proud to discover how much she was piqued by his coldness, she
took the seat and commenced studying. But lines and angles swam
confusedly before her, and, shutting the book, she sat looking into
the fire. While her eyes roamed into the deep, glowing crevices of
the coals, a letter was hurled into the fiery mass, and in an
instant blazed and shriveled to ashes. She looked up in surprise,
and started at the expression of her guardian's face. Its Antinous-
like beauty had vanished; the pale lips writhed, displaying the
faultless teeth; the thin nostrils were expanded, and the eyes
burned with fierce anger. The avalanche was upheaved by hidden
volcanic fires, and he exclaimed, with scornful emphasis:

"Idiot! blind lunatic! In his dotage!"

There was something so marvelous in this excited, angry
manifestation that Beulah, who had never before seen him other than
phlegmatic, looked at him with curious wonder. His clenched hand
rested on the arm of the chair, and he continued sarcastically:

"Oh, a precious pair of idiots! They will have a glorious life. Such
harmony, such congeniality! Such incomparable sweetness on her part,
such equable spirits on his! Not the surpassing repose of a windless
tropic night can approach to the divine serenity of their future.
Ha! by the Furies! he will have an enviable companion; a matchless
Griselda!" Laughing scornfully, he started up and strode across the
floor. As Beulah caught the withering expression which sat on every
feature she shuddered involuntarily. Could she bear to incur his
contempt? He approached her, and she felt as though her very soul
shrank from him; his glowing eyes seemed to burn her face, as he
paused and said ironically:

"Can't you participate in my joy? I have a new brother-in-law.
Congratulate me on my sister's marriage. Such desperate good news
can come but rarely in a lifetime."

"Whom has she married, sir?" asked Beulah, shrinking from the iron
grasp on her shoulder.

"Percy Lockhart, of course. He will rue his madness. I warned him.
Now let him seek apples in the orchards of Sodom! Let him lay his
parched lips to the treacherous waves of the Dead Sea! Oh, I pity
the fool! I tried to save him, but he would seal his own doom. Let
him pay the usurious school-fees of experience."

"Perhaps your sister's love for him will--"

"Oh, you young, ignorant lamb! You poor, little, unfledged birdling!
I suppose you fancy she is really attached to him. Do you, indeed?
About as much as that pillar of salt in the plain of Sodom was
attached to the memory of Lot. About as much as this peerless Niobe
of mine is attached to me." He struck the marble statue as he spoke.

"Then, how could she marry him?" asked Beulah naively.

"Ha! ha! I will present you to the Smithsonian Institution as the
last embodiment of effete theories. Who exhumed you, patron saint of
archaism, from the charnel-house of centuries?" He looked down at
her with an expression of intolerable bitterness and scorn. Her
habitually pale face flushed to crimson, as she answered with
sparkling eyes:

"Not the hand of Diogenes, encumbered with his tub!"

He smiled grimly.

"Know the world as I do, child, and tubs and palaces will be alike
to you. Feel the pulse of humanity, and you will--"

"Heaven preserve me from looking on life through your spectacles!"
cried she impetuously, stung by the contemptuous smile which curled
his lips. "Amen." Taking his hands from her shoulder, he threw
himself back into his chair. There was silence for some minutes, and
Beulah said:

"I thought Mr. Lockhart was in Syria?"

"Oh, no; he wants a companion in his jaunt to the Holy Land. How
devoutly May will kneel on Olivet and Moriah! What pious tears will
stain her lovely cheek as she stands in the hall of Pilate, and
calls to mind all the thirty years' history! Oh, Percy is cruel to
subject her tender soul to such torturing associations! Beulah, go
and play something; no matter what. Anything to hush my cursing
mood. Go, child." He turned away his face to hide its bitterness,
and, seating herself at the melodeon, Beulah played a German air of
which he was very fond. At the conclusion he merely said:

"Sing."

A plaintive prelude followed the command, and she sang. No
description could do justice to the magnificent voice, as it swelled
deep and full in its organ-like tones; now thrillingly low in its
wailing melody, and now ringing clear and sweet as silver bells.
There were soft, rippling notes that seemed to echo from the deeps
of her soul and voice its immensity. It was wonderful what compass
there was, what rare sweetness and purity too. It was a natural
gift, like that conferred on birds. Art could not produce it, but
practice and scientific culture had improved and perfected it. For
three years the best teachers had instructed her, and she felt that
now she was mistress of a spell which, once invoked, might easily
exorcise the evil spirit which had taken possession of her guardian.
She sang several of his favorite songs, then closed the melodeon and
went back to the fire. Dr. Hartwell's face lay against the purple
velvet lining of the chair, and the dark surface gave out the
contour with bold distinctness. His eyes were closed, and as Beulah
watched him she thought, "How inflexible he looks, how like a marble
image! The mouth seems as if the sculptor's chisel had just carved
it--so stern, so stony. Ah, he is not scornful now! he looks only
sad, uncomplaining, but very miserable. What has steeled his heart,
and made him so unrelenting, so haughty? What can have isolated him
so completely? Nature lavished on him every gift which could render
him the charm of social circles, yet he lives in the seclusion of
his own heart, independent of sympathy, contemptuous of the world he
was sent to improve and bless." These reflections were interrupted
by his opening his eyes and saying, in his ordinary, calm tone:

"Thank you, Beulah. Did you finish that opera I spoke of some time
since?"

"Yes, sir."

"You found it difficult?"

"Not so difficult as your description led me to imagine."

"Were you lonely while I was away?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why did not Clara come and stay with you?"

"She was engaged in changing her home; has removed to Mrs. Hoyt's
boarding house."

"When did you see her last? How does she bear the blow?"

"I was with her to-day. She is desponding, and seems to grow more so
daily."

She wondered very much whether he suspected the preference which she
felt sure Clara entertained for him; and, as the subject recurred to
her, she looked troubled.

"What is the matter?" he asked, accustomed to reading her expressive
face.

"Nothing that can be remedied, sir."

"How do you know that? Suppose you let me be the judge."

"You could not judge of it, sir; and, besides, it is no concern of
mine."

A frigid smile fled over his face, and for some time he appeared
lost in thought. His companion was thinking too; wondering how Clara
could cope with such a nature as his; wondering why people always
selected persons totally unsuited to them; and fancying that if
Clara only knew her guardian's character as well as she did the
gentle girl would shrink in dread from his unbending will, his
habitual, moody taciturnity. He was generous and unselfish, but also
as unyielding as the Rock of Gibraltar. There was nothing
pleasurable in this train of thought, and, taking up a book, she
soon ceased to think of the motionless figure opposite. No sooner
were her eyes once fastened on her book than his rested searchingly
on her face. At first she read without much manifestation of
interest, regularly and slowly passing her hand over the black head
which Charon had laid on her lap. After a while the lips parted
eagerly, the leaves were turned quickly, and the touches on Charon's
head ceased. Her long, black lashes could not veil the expression of
enthusiastic pleasure. Another page fluttered over, a flush stole
across her brow; and, as she closed the volume, her whole face was
irradiated.

"What are you reading?" asked Dr. Hartwell, when she seemed to sink
into a reverie.

"Analects from Richter."

"De Quincey's!"

"Yes, sir."

"Once that marvelous 'Dream upon the Universe' fascinated me as
completely as it now does you."

Memories of earlier days clustered about him, parting the somber
clouds with their rosy fingers. His features began to soften.

"Sir, can you read it now without feeling your soul kindle?"

"Yes, child; it has lost its interest for me. I read it as
indifferently as I do one of my medical books. So will you one day."

"Never! It shall be a guide-book to my soul, telling of the pathway,
arched with galaxies and paved with suns, through which that soul
shall pass in triumph to its final rest!"

"And who shall remain in that 'illimitable dungeon of pure, pure
darkness, which imprisons creation? That dead sea of nothing, in
whose unfathomable zone of blackness the jewel of the glittering
universe is set and buried forever?' Child, is not that, too a
dwelling-place?" He passed his fingers through his hair, sweeping it
all back from his ample forehead. Beulah opened the book, and read
aloud:

"Immediately my eyes were opened, and I saw, as it were, an
interminable sea of light; all spaces between all heavens were
filled with happiest light, for the deserts and wastes of the
creation were now filled with the sea of light, and in this sea the
suns floated like ash-gray blossoms, and the planets like black
grains of seed. Then my heart comprehended that immortality dwelled
in the spaces between the worlds, and Death only among the worlds;
and the murky planets I perceived were but cradles for the infant
spirits of the universe of light! In the Zaarahs of the creation I
saw, I heard, I felt--the glittering, the echoing, the breathing of
life and creative power!"

She closed the volume, and, while her lips trembled with deep
feeling, added earnestly:

"Oh, sir, it makes me long, like Jean Paul, 'for some narrow cell or
quiet oratory in this metropolitan cathedral of the universe.' It is
an infinite conception and painting of infinity, which my soul
endeavors to grasp, but wearies in thinking of!"

Dr. Hartwell smiled, and, pointing to a row of books, said with some
eagerness:

"I will test your love of Jean Paul. Give me that large volume in
crimson binding on the second shelf. No--further on; that is it."

He turned over the leaves for a few minutes, and, with a finger
still on the page, put it into her hand, saying:

"Begin here at 'I went through the worlds,' and read down to 'when I
awoke.'"

She sat down and read. He put his hand carelessly over his eyes, and
watched her curiously through his fingers. It was evident that she
soon became intensely interested. He could see the fierce throbbing
of a vein in her throat and the tight clutching of her fingers. Her
eyebrows met in the wrinkling forehead, and the lips were compressed
severely. Gradually the flush faded from her cheek, an expression of
pain and horror swept over her stormy face, and, rising hastily, she
exclaimed:

"False! false! 'That everlasting storm which no one guides' tells me
in thunder tones that there is a home of rest in the presence of the
infinite Father! Oh, chance does not roam, like a destroying angel,
through that 'snow-powder of stars!' The love of our God is over all
his works as a mantle! Though you should 'take the wings of the
morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,' lo! he is
there! The sorrowing children of the universe are not orphans!
Neither did Richter believe it; well might he declare that with this
sketch he would 'terrify himself' and vanquish the specter of
Atheism! Oh, sir! the dear God stretches his arm about each and all
of us! 'When the sorrow-laden lays himself, with a galled back, into
the earth, to sleep till a fairer morning,' it is not true that 'he
awakens in a stormy chaos, in an everlasting midnight!' It is not
true! He goes home to his loved dead, and spends a blissful eternity
in the kingdom of Jehovah, where death is no more, 'where the wicked
cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest!'"

She laid the volume on his knee, and tears which would not be
restrained rolled swiftly over her cheeks.

He looked at her mournfully, and took her hand in his.

"My child, do you believe all this as heartily as you did when a
little girl? Is your faith in your religion unshaken?"

He felt her fingers close over his spasmodically, as she hastily
replied:

"Of course, of course! What could shake a faith which years should
strengthen?"

But the shiver which crept through her frame denied her assertion,
and with a keen pang he saw the footprints of the Destroyer. She
must not know, however, that he doubted her words, and, with an
effort, he said:

"I am glad, Beulah; and if you would continue to believe, don't read
my books promiscuously. There are many on those shelves yonder which
I would advise you never to open. Be warned in time, my child."

She snatched her hand from his, and answered proudly:

"Sir, think you I could be satisfied with a creed which I could not
bear to have investigated? If I abstained from reading your books,
dreading lest my faith be shaken, then I could no longer confide in
that faith. Christianity has triumphed over the subtleties of
infidelity for eighteen hundred years. What have I to fear?"

"Beulah, do you want to be just what I am? Without belief in any
creed! hopeless of eternity as of life! Do you want to be like me?
If not, keep your hands off of my books! Good night; it is time for
you to be asleep."

He motioned her away, and, too much pained to reply, she silently
withdrew.



CHAPTER XV.


The day had been clear, though cold, and late in the afternoon
Beulah wrapped a shawl about her, and ran out into the front yard
for a walk. The rippling tones of the fountain were hushed; the
shrubs were bare, and, outside the greenhouse, not a flower was to
be seen. Even the hardy chrysanthemums were brown and shriveled.
Here vegetation slumbered in the grave of winter. The hedges were
green, and occasional clumps of cassina bent their branches beneath
the weight of coral fruitage. Tall poplars lifted their leafless
arms helplessly toward the sky, and threw grotesque shadows on the
ground beneath, while the wintry wind chanted a mournful dirge
through the somber foliage of the aged, solemn cedars. Noisy flocks
of robins fluttered among the trees, eating the ripe, red yaupon
berries, and now and then parties of pigeons circled round and round
the house. Charon lay on the doorstep, blinking at the setting sun,
with his sage face dropped on his paws. Afar off was heard the hum
of the city; but here all was quiet and peaceful. Beulah looked over
the beds, lately so brilliant and fragrant in their wealth of floral
beauty; at the bare gray poplars, whose musical rustling had so
often hushed her to sleep in cloudless summer nights, and an
expression of serious thoughtfulness settled on her face. Many
months before she had watched the opening spring in this same
garden. Had seen young leaves and delicate blossoms bud out from
naked stems, had noted their rich luxuriance as the summer heat came
on--their mature beauty; and when the first breath of autumn sighed
through the land she saw them flush and decline, and gradually die
and rustle down to their graves. Now, where green boughs and
perfumed petals had gayly looked up in the sunlight, all was
desolate. The piercing northern wind seemed to whisper as it passed,
"Life is but the germ of death, and death the development of a
higher life." Was the cycle eternal then? Were the beautiful
ephemeras she had loved so dearly gone down into the night of death,
but for a season, to be born again, in some distant springtime,
mature, and return, as before, to the charnel-house? Were the
threescore and ten years of human life analogous? Life, too, had its
springtime, its summer of maturity, its autumnal decline, and its
wintry night of death. Were the cold sleepers in the neighboring
cemetery waiting, like those dead flowers, for the tireless
processes of nature, whereby their dust was to be reanimated,
remolded, lighted with a soul, and set forward for another journey
of threescore and ten years of life and labor? Men lived and died;
their ashes enriched Mother Earth; new creations sprang, phoenix-
like, from the sepulcher of the old. Another generation trod life's
path in the dim footprints of their predecessors, and that, too,
vanished in the appointed process, mingling dust with dust, that
Protean matter might hold the even tenor of its way, in accordance
with the oracular decrees of Isis. Was it true that, since the
original Genesis, "nothing had been gained, and nothing lost?" Was
earth, indeed, a monstrous Kronos? If so, was not she as old as
creation? To how many other souls had her body given shelter? How
was her identity to be maintained? True, she had read that identity
was housed in "consciousness," not bones and muscles? But could
there be consciousness without bones and muscles? She drew her shawl
closely around her, and looked up at the cloudless sea of azure. The
sun had sunk below the horizon; the birds had all gone to rest;
Charon had sought the study rug; even the distant hum of the city
was no longer heard. "The silver sparks of stars were rising on the
altar of the east, and falling down in the red sea of the west."
Beulah was chilled; there were cold thoughts in her mind--icy
specters in her heart; and she quickened her pace up and down the
avenue, dusky beneath the ancient gloomy cedars. One idea haunted
her: aside from revelation, what proof had she that, unlike those
moldering flowers, her spirit should never die? No trace was to be
found of the myriads of souls who had preceded her. Where were the
countless hosts? Were life and death balanced? was her own soul
chiliads old, forgetting its former existences, save as dim,
undefinable reminiscences, flashed fitfully upon it? If so, was it a
progression? How did she know that her soul had not entered her body
fresh from the release of the hangman, instead of coming down on
angel wings from its starry home, as she had loved to think? A
passage which she had read many weeks before flashed upon her mind:
"Upon the dead mother, in peace and utter gloom, are reposing the
dead children. After a time uprises the everlasting sun; and the
mother starts up at the summons of the heavenly dawn, with a
resurrection of her ancient bloom. And her children? Yes, but they
must wait a while!" This resurrection was springtime, beckoning
dormant beauty from the icy arms of winter; how long must the
children wait for the uprising of the morning star of eternity? From
childhood these unvoiced queries had perplexed her mind, and,
strengthening with her growth, now cried out peremptorily for
answers. With shuddering dread she strove to stifle the spirit
which, once thoroughly awakened, threatened to explore every nook
and cranny of mystery. She longed to talk freely with her guardian
regarding many of the suggestions which puzzled her, but shrank
instinctively from broaching such topics. Now, in her need, the
sublime words of Job came to her: "Oh, that my words were now
written! oh, that they were printed in a book; for I know that my
Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the
earth; and though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I
see God." Handel's "Messiah" had invested this passage with
resistless grandeur, and, leaving the cold, dreary garden, she sat
down before the melodeon and sang a portion of the Oratorio. The
sublime strains seemed to bear her worshiping soul up to the
presence-chamber of Deity, and exultingly she repeated the
concluding words:

    "For now is Christ risen from the dead:
     The first-fruits of them that sleep."

The triumph of faith shone in her kindled eyes, though glittering
drops fell on the ivory keys, and the whole countenance bespoke a
heart resting in the love of the Father. While her fingers still
rolled waves of melody through the room, Dr. Hartwell entered, with
a parcel in one hand and a magnificent cluster of greenhouse flowers
in the other. He laid the latter before Beulah, and said:

"I want you to go with me to-night to hear Sontag. The concert
commences at eight o'clock, and you have no time to spare. Here are
some flowers for your hair; arrange it as you have it now; and here,
also, a pair of white gloves. When you are ready, come down and make
my tea."

"Thank you, sir, for remembering me so kindly, and supplying all my
wants so--"

"Beulah, there are tears on your lashes. What is the matter?"
interrupted the doctor, pointing to the drops which had fallen on
the rosewood frame of the melodeon.

"Is it not enough to bring tears to my eyes when I think of all your
kindness?" She hurried away without suffering him to urge the
matter.

The prospect of hearing Sontag gave her exquisite pleasure, and she
dressed with trembling eagerness, while Harriet leaned on the bureau
and wondered what would happen next. Except to attend church and
visit Clara and Mrs. Williams, Beulah had never gone out before; and
the very seclusion in which she lived rendered this occasion one of
interest and importance. As she took her cloak and ran downstairs
the young heart throbbed violently. Would her fastidious guardian be
satisfied with her appearance? She felt the blood gush over her face
as she entered the room; but he did not look at her, continued to
read the newspaper he held, and said, from behind the extended
sheet:

"I will join you directly."

She poured out the tea with an unsteady hand. Dr. Hartwell took his
silently; and, as both rose from the table, handed her a paper,
saying:

"The carriage is not quite ready yet. There is a programme."

As she glanced over it he scanned her closely, and an expression of
satisfaction settled on his features. She wore a dark blue silk (one
he had given her some weeks before), which exquisitely fitted her
slender, graceful figure, and was relieved by a lace collar,
fastened with a handsome cameo pin, also his gift. The glossy black
hair was brushed straight back from the face, in accordance with the
prevailing style, and wound into a knot at the back of the head. On
either side of this knot she wore a superb white camellia, which
contrasted well with the raven hair. Her face was pale, but the
expression was one of eager expectation. As the carriage rattled up
to the door he put his hand on her shoulder, and said:

"You look very well to-night, my child. Those white japonicas become
you."

She breathed freely once more.

At the door of the concert hall he gave her his arm, and, while the
pressure of the crowd detained them a moment at the entrance, she
clung to him with a feeling of dependence utterly new to her. The
din of voices, the dazzling glare of the gas-lights bewildered her,
and she walked on mechanically, till the doctor entered his seat and
placed her beside him. The brilliant chandeliers shone down on
elegant dresses, glittering diamonds, and beautiful women, and,
looking forward, Beulah was reminded of the glowing descriptions in
the "Arabian Nights." She observed that many curious eyes were bent
upon her, and ere she had been seated five minutes more than one
lorgnette was leveled at her. Everybody knew Dr. Hartwell, and she
saw him constantly returning the bows of recognition which assailed
him from the ladies in their vicinity. Presently he leaned his head
on his hand, and she could not forbear smiling at the ineffectual
attempts made to arrest his attention. The hall was crowded, and, as
the seats filled to their utmost capacity she was pressed against
her guardian. He looked down at her, and whispered:

"Very democratic. Eh, Beulah?"

She smiled, and was about to reply, when her attention was attracted
by a party which just then took their places immediately in front of
her. It consisted of an elderly gentleman and two ladies, one of
whom Beulah instantly recognized as Cornelia Graham. She was now a
noble-looking, rather than beautiful, woman; and the incipient
pride, so apparent in girlhood, had matured into almost repulsive
hauteur. She was very richly dressed, and her brilliant black eyes
wandered indifferently over the room, as though such assemblages had
lost their novelty and interest for her. Chancing to look back, she
perceived Dr. Hartwell, bowed, and said with a smile:

"Pray, do not think me obstinate. I had no wish to come, but father
insisted."

"I am glad you feel well enough to be here," was his careless reply.

Cornelia's eyes fell upon the quiet figure at his side, and, as
Beulah me her steady gaze, she felt something of her old dislike
warming in her eyes. They had never met since the morning of
Cornelia's contemptuous treatment at Madam St. Cymon's; and now, to
Beulah's utter astonishment, she deliberately turned round, put out
her white-gloved hand over the back of the seat, and said
energetically:

"How are you, Beulah? You have altered so materially that I scarcely
knew you."

Beulah's nature was generous; she was glad to forget old injuries,
and, as their hands met in a friendly clasp, she answered:

"You have changed but little."

"And that for the worse, as people have a pleasant way of telling
me. Beulah, I want to know honestly if my rudeness caused you to
leave madam's school?"

"That was not my only reason," replied Beulah very candidly.

At this moment a burst of applause greeted the appearance of the
cantatrice, and all conversation was suspended. Beulah listened to
the warbling of the queen of song with a thrill of delight.
Passionately fond of music, she appreciated the brilliant execution
and entrancing melody as probably very few in that crowded house
could have done. With some of the pieces selected she was familiar,
and others she had long desired to hear. She was unconscious of the
steady look with which her guardian watched her, as, with parted
lips, she leaned eagerly forward to catch every note. When Sontag
left the stage, and the hum of conversation was heard once more,
Beulah looked up, with a long sigh of delight, and murmured:

"Oh, sir! isn't she a glorious woman?"

"Miss Graham is speaking to you," said he coolly.

She raised her head, and saw the young lady's eyes riveted on her
countenance.

"Beulah, when did you hear from Eugene?"

"About three weeks since, I believe."

"We leave for Europe day after to-morrow; shall, perhaps, go
directly to Heidelberg. Have you any commissions? any messages?"
Under the mask of seeming indifference, she watched Beulah intently
as, shrinking from the cold, searching eyes, the latter replied:

"Thank you, I have neither to trouble you with."

Again the prima-donna appeared on the stage, and again Beulah forgot
everything but the witching strains. In the midst of one of the
songs she felt her guardian start violently; and the hand which
rested on his knee was clinched spasmodically. She looked at him;
the wonted pale face was flushed to the edge of his hair; the blue
veins stood out hard and corded on his brow; and the eyes, like
burning stars, were fixed on some object not very remote, while he
gnawed his lip, as if unconscious of what he did. Following the
direction of his gaze, she saw that it was fastened on a gentleman
who sat at some little distance from them. The position he occupied
rendered his countenance visible, and a glance sufficed to show her
that the features were handsome, the expression sinister, malignant,
and cunning. His entire appearance was foreign, and conveyed the
idea of reckless dissipation. Evidently he came there, not for the
music, but to scan the crowd, and his fierce eyes roamed over the
audience with a daring impudence which disgusted her. Suddenly they
rested on her own face, wandered to Dr. Hartwell's, and, lingering
there a full moment with a look of defiant hatred, returned to her,
causing her to shudder at the intensity and freedom of his gaze. She
drew herself up proudly, and, with an air of haughty contempt, fixed
her attention on the stage. But the spell of enchantment was broken;
she could hear the deep, irregular breathing of her guardian, and
knew, from the way in which he stared down on the floor, that he
could with difficulty remain quietly in his place. She was glad when
the concert ended and the mass of heads began to move toward the
door. With a species of curiosity that she could not repress, she
glanced at the stranger; their eyes met, as before, and his smile of
triumphant scorn made her cling closer to her guardian's arm, and
take care not to look in that direction again. She felt
inexpressibly relieved when, hurried on by the crowd in the rear,
they emerged from the heated room into a long, dim passage leading
to the street. They were surrounded on all sides by chattering
groups, and, while the light was too faint to distinguish faces,
these words fell on her ear with painful distinctness: "I suppose
that was Dr. Hartwell's protegee he had with him. He is a great
curiosity. Think of a man of his age and appearance settling down as
if he were sixty years old, and adopting a beggarly orphan! She is
not at all pretty. What can have possessed him?"

"No, not pretty, exactly; but there is something odd in her
appearance. Her brow is magnificent, and I should judge she was
intellectual. She is as colorless as a ghost. No accounting for
Hartwell; ten to one he will marry her. I have heard it surmised
that he was educating her for a wife--" Here the party who were in
advance vanished, and, as he approached the carriage, Dr. Hartwell
said coolly:

"Another specimen of democracy."

Beulah felt as if a lava tide surged madly in her veins, and, as the
carriage rolled homeward, she covered her face with her hands.
Wounded pride, indignation, and contempt struggled violently in her
heart. For some moments there was silence; then her guardian drew
her hands from her face, held them firmly in his, and, leaning
forward, said gravely:

"Beulah, malice and envy love lofty marks. Learn, as I have done, to
look down with scorn from the summit of indifference upon the feeble
darts aimed from the pits beneath you. My child, don't suffer the
senseless gossip of the shallow crowd to wound you."

She endeavored to withdraw her hands, but his unyielding grasp
prevented her.

"Beulah, you must conquer your morbid sensitiveness, if you would
have your life other than a dreary burden."

"Oh, sir! you are not invulnerable to these wounds; how, then, can
I, an orphan girl, receive them with indifference?" She spoke
passionately, and drooped her burning face till it touched his arm.

"Ah, you observed my agitation to-night. But for a vow made to my
dying mother, that villian's blood had long since removed all
grounds of emotion. Six years ago he fled from me, and his
unexpected reappearance to-night excited me more than I had fancied
it was possible for anything to do." His voice was as low, calm, and
musical as though he were reading aloud to her some poetic tale of
injuries; and, in the same even, quiet tone, he added:

"It is well. All have a Nemesis."

"Not on earth, sir."

"Wait till you have lived as long as I, and you will think with me.
Beulah, be careful how you write to Eugene of Cornelia Graham;
better not mention her name at all. If she lives to come home again
you will understand me."

"Is not her health good?" asked Beulah in surprise.

"Far from it. She has a disease of the heart which may end her
existence any moment. I doubt whether she ever returns to America.
Mind, I do not wish you to speak of this to anyone. Good-night. If
you are up in time in the morning I wish you would be so good as to
cut some of the choicest flowers in the greenhouse and arrange a
handsome bouquet before breakfast. I want to take it to one of my
patients, an old friend of my mother's."

They were at home, and, only pausing at the door of Mrs. Watson's
room to tell the good woman the "music was charming," Beulah
hastened to her own apartment. Throwing herself into a chair, she
recalled the incidents of the evening, and her cheeks burned
painfully as her position in the eyes of the world was forced upon
her recollection. Tears of mortification rolled over her hot face,
and her heart throbbed almost to suffocation. She sank upon her
knees and tried to pray, but sobs choked her utterrance; and,
leaning her head against the bed, she wept bitterly.

Ah, is there not pain, and sorrow, and evil enough in this fallen
world of ours, that meddling gossips must needs poison the few pure
springs of enjoyment and peace? Not the hatred of the Theban
brothers could more thoroughly accomplish this fiendish design than
the whisper of detraction, the sneer of malice, or the fatal
innuendo of envious, low-bred tattlers. Human life is shielded by
the bulwark of legal provisions, and most earthly possessions are
similarly protected; but there are assassins whom the judicial arm
cannot reach, who infest society in countless hordes, and, while
their work of ruin and misery goes ever on, there is for the unhappy
victims no redress. Thy holy precepts, O Christ! alone can antidote
this universal evil.

Beulah calmed the storm that raged in her heart, and, as she took
the flowers from her hair, said resolutely:

"Before long I shall occupy a position where there will be nothing
to envy, and then, possibly, I may escape the gossiping rack. Eugene
may think me a fool, if he likes; but support myself I will, if it
costs me my life. What difference should it make to him, so long as
I prefer it? One more year of study and I shall be qualified for any
situation; then I can breathe freely. May God shield me from all
harm!"



CHAPTER XVI.


That year of study rolled swiftly away; another winter came and
passed; another spring hung its verdant drapery over earth, and now
ardent summer reigned once more. It was near the noon of a starry
July night that Beulah sat in her own room beside her writing-desk.
A manuscript lay before her, yet damp with ink, and as she traced
the concluding words, and threw down her pen, a triumphant smile
flashed over her face. To-morrow the session of the public school
would close, with an examination of its pupils; to-morrow she would
graduate, and deliver the valedictory to the graduating class. She
had just finished copying her address, and, placing it carefully in
the desk, rose and leaned against the window, that the cool night
air might fan her fevered brow. The hot blood beat heavily in her
temples, and fled with arrowy swiftness through her veins. Continued
mental excitement, like another Shylock, peremptorily exacted its
debt, and, as she looked out on the solemn beauty of the night,
instead of soothing, it seemed to mock her restlessness. Dr.
Hartwell had been absent since noon, but now she detected the whir
of wheels in the direction of the carriage house, and knew that he
was in the study. She heard him throw open the shutters and speak to
Charon, and, gathering up her hair, which hung loosely about her
shoulders, she confined it with a comb and glided noiselessly down
the steps. The lamplight gleamed through the open door, and, pausing
on the threshold, she asked:

"May I come in for a few minutes, or are you too much fatigued to
talk?"

"Beulah, I positively forbade your sitting up this late. It is
midnight, child; go to bed." He held some papers, and spoke without
even glancing toward her.

"Yes, I know; but I want to ask you something before I sleep."

"Well, what is it?" Still he did not look up from his papers.

"Will you attend the exercises to-morrow?"

"Is it a matter of any consequence whether I do or not?"

"To me, sir, it certainly is."

"Child, I shall not have leisure."

"Be honest, and say that you have not sufficient interest!" cried
she passionately.

He smiled, and answered placidly:

"Good-night, Beulah. You should have been asleep long ago." Her lips
quivered, and she lingered, loath to leave him in so unfriendly a
mood. Suddenly he raised his head, looked at her steadily, and said:

"Have you sent in your name as an applicant for a situation?"

"I have."

"Good-night." His tone was stern, and she immediately retreated.
Unable to sleep, she passed the remaining hours of the short night
in pacing the floor, or watching the clockwork of stars point to the
coming dawn. Though not quite eighteen, her face was prematurely
grave and thoughtful, and its restless, unsatisfied expression
plainly discovered a perturbed state of mind and heart. The time had
come when she must go out into the world and depend only upon
herself; and though she was anxious to commence the work she had
assigned herself, she shrank from the thought of quitting her
guardian's home and thus losing the only companionship she really
prized. He had not sought to dissuade her; had appeared perfectly
indifferent to her plans; and this unconcern had wounded her deeply.
To-morrow would decide her election as teacher, and, as the
committee would be present at her examination (which was to be more
than usually minute in view of her application), she looked forward
impatiently to this occasion. Morning dawned, and she hailed it
gladly; breakfast came, and she took hers alone; the doctor had
already gone out for the day. This was not an unusual occurrence,
yet this morning she noted it particularly. At ten o'clock the
academy was crowded with visitors, and the commissioners and
teachers were formidably arrayed on the platform raised for this
purpose. The examination began; Greek and Latin classes were
carefully questioned, and called on to parse and scan to a tiresome
extent; then came mathematical demonstrations. Every conceivable
variety of lines and angles adorned the blackboards; and next in
succession were classes in rhetoric and natural history. There was a
tediousness in the examinations incident to such occasions, and, as
repeated inquiries were propounded, Beulah rejoiced at the prospect
of release. Finally the commissioners declared themselves quite
satisfied with the proficiency attained, and the graduating class
read the compositions for the day. At length, at a signal from the
superintendent of the department, Beulah ascended the platform, and,
surrounded by men signalized by scholarship and venerable from age,
she began her address. She wore a white mull muslin, and her glossy
black hair was arranged with the severe simplicity which
characterized her style of dress. Her face was well-nigh as
colorless as the paper she held, and her voice faltered with the
first few sentences.

The theme was "Female Heroism," and as she sought among the dusky
annals of the past for instances in confirmation of her predicate,
that female intellect was capable of the most exalted attainments,
and that the elements of her character would enable woman to cope
successfully with difficulties of every class, her voice grew clear,
firm, and deep. Quitting the fertile fields of history, she painted
the trials which hedge woman's path, and with unerring skill defined
her peculiar sphere, her true position. The reasoning was singularly
forcible, the imagery glowing and gorgeous, and occasional passages
of exquisite pathos drew tears from her fascinated audience; while
more than once a beautiful burst of enthusiasm was received with
flattering applause. Instead of flushing, her face grew paler, and
the large eyes were full of lambent light, which seemed to flash out
from her soul. In conclusion, she bade adieu to the honored halls
where her feet had sought the paths of knowledge; paid a just and
grateful tribute to the Institution of Public Schools, and to the
Commissioners through whose agency she had been enabled to enjoy so
many privileges; and, turning to her fellow-graduates, touchingly
reminded them of the happy past and warned of the shrouded future.
Crumpling the paper in one hand, she extended the other toward her
companions, and in thrilling accents conjured them, in any and every
emergency, to prove themselves true women of America--ornaments of
the social circle, angel guardians of the sacred hearthstone,
ministering spirits where suffering and want demanded succor; women
qualified to assist in a council of statesmen, if dire necessity
ever required it; while, in whatever positions they might be placed,
their examples should remain imperishable monuments of true female
heroism. As the last words passed her lips she glanced swiftly over
the sea of heads, and perceived her guardian leaning with folded
arms against a pillar, while his luminous eyes were fastened on her
face. A flash of joy irradiated her countenance, and, bending her
head amid the applause of the assembly, she retired to her seat. She
felt that her triumph was complete; the whispered, yet audible,
inquiries regarding her name, the admiring, curious glances directed
toward her, were not necessary to assure her of success; and when,
immediately after the diplomas were distributed, she rose and
received hers with the calm look of one who has toiled long for some
need, and puts forth her hand for what she is conscious of having
deserved. The crowd slowly dispersed, and, beckoned forward once
more, Beulah confronted the august committee whose prerogative it
was to elect teachers. A certificate was handed her, and the
chairman informed her of her election to a vacant post in the
Intermediate Department. The salary was six hundred dollars, to be
paid monthly, and her duties would commence with the opening of the
next session, after two months' vacation. In addition he
congratulated her warmly on the success of her valedictory effort,
and suggested the propriety of cultivating talents which might
achieve for her an enviable distinction. She bowed in silence, and
turned away to collect her books. Her guardian approached, and said
in a low voice:

"Put on your bonnet and come down to the side gate. It is too warm
for you to walk home."

Without waiting for her answer, he descended the steps, and she was
soon seated beside him in the buggy. The short ride was silent, and,
on reaching home, Beulah would have gone, immediately to her room,
but the doctor called her into the study and, as he rang the bell,
said gently:

"You look very much exhausted; rest here, while I order a glass of
wine."

It was speedily brought, and, having iced it, he held it to her
white lips. She drank the contents, and her head sank on the sofa
cushions. The fever of excitement was over, a feeling of lassitude
stole over her, and she soon lost all consciousness in a heavy
sleep. The sun was just setting as she awakened from her slumber,
and, sitting up, she soon recalled the events of the day. The
evening breeze, laden with perfume, stole in refreshingly through
the blinds, and, as the sunset pageant faded, and darkness crept on,
she remained on the sofa, pondering her future course. The lamp and
her guardian made their appearance at the same moment, and, throwing
himself down in one corner of the sofa, the latter asked: "How are
you since your nap? A trifle less ghastly, I see."

"Much better, thank you, sir. My head is quite clear again."

"Clear enough to make out a foreign letter?" He took one from his
pocket and put it in her hand.

An anxious look flitted across her face, and she glanced rapidly
over the contents, then crumpled the sheet nervously in her fingers.

"What is the matter now?"

"He is coming home. They will all be here in November." She spoke as
if bitterly chagrined and disappointed.

"Most people would consider that joyful news," said the doctor
quietly.

"What! after spending more than five years (one of them in
traveling), to come back without having acquired a profession and
settle down into a mere walking ledger! To have princely advantages
at his command, and yet throw them madly to the winds and be content
to plod along the road of mercantile life, without one spark of
ambition, when his mental endowments would justify his aspiring to
the most exalted political stations in the land."

Her voice trembled from intensity of feeling.

"Take care how you disparage mercantile pursuits; some of the most
masterly minds of the age were nurtured in the midst of ledgers."

"And I honor and reverence all such far more than their colleagues
whose wisdom was culled in classic academic halls; for the former,
struggling amid adverse circumstances, made good their claim to an
exalted place in the temple of Fame. But necessity forced them to
purely mercantile pursuits. Eugene's case is by no means analogous;
situated as he is, he could be just what he chose. I honor all men
who do their duty nobly and truly in the positions fate has assigned
them; but, sir, you know there are some more richly endowed than
others, some whom nature seems to have destined for arduous
diplomatic posts; whose privilege it is to guide the helm of state
and achieve distinction as men of genius. To such the call will be
imperative; America needs such men. Heaven only knows where they are
to rise from, when the call is made! I do not mean to disparage
mercantile pursuits; they afford constant opportunities for the
exercise and display of keenness and clearness of intellect, but do
not require the peculiar gifts so essential in statesmen. Indolence
is unpardonable in any avocation, and I would be commended to the
industrious, energetic merchant, in preference to superficial, so-
called, 'professional men.' But Eugene had rare educational
advantages, and I expected him to improve them, and be something
more than ordinary. He expected it, five years ago. What infatuation
possesses him latterly I cannot imagine."

Dr. Hartwell smiled, and said very quietly: "Has it ever occurred to
you that you might have overestimated Eugene's abilities?"

"Sir, you entertained a flattering opinion of them when he left
here." She could animadvert upon his fickleness, but did not choose
that others should enjoy the same privilege.

"I by no means considered him an embryo Webster or Calhoun; never
looked on him as an intellectual prodigy. He had a good mind, a
handsome face, and frank, gentlemanly manners which, in the
aggregate, impressed me favorably." Beulah bit her lips, and stooped
to pat Charon's head. There was silence for some moments, and then
the doctor asked:

"Does he mention Cornelia's health?"

"Only once, incidentally. I judge from the sentence that she is
rather feeble. There is a good deal of unimportant chat about a lady
they have met in Florence. She is the daughter of a Louisiana
planter; very beautiful and fascinating; is a niece of Mrs.
Graham's, and will spend part of next winter with the Grahams."

"What is her name?"

"Antoinette Dupres."

Beulah was still caressing Charon, and did not observe the purplish
glow which bathed the doctor's face at the mention of the name. She
only saw that he rose abruptly, and walked to the window, where he
stood until tea was brought in. As they concluded the meal and left
the table he held out his hand.

"Beulah, I congratulate you on your signal success to-day. Your
valedictory made me proud of my protegee." She had put her hand in
his, and looked up in his face, but the cloudy splendor of the eyes
was more than she could bear, and drooping her head a little, she
answered:

"Thank you."

"You have vacation for two months?"

"Yes, sir; and then my duties commence. Here is the certificate of
my election." She offered it for inspection; but, without noticing
it, he continued:

"Beulah, I think you owe me something for taking care of you, as you
phrased it long ago at the asylum. Do you admit the debt?"

"Most gratefully, sir! I admit that I can never liquidate it: I can
repay you only with the most earnest gratitude." Large tears hung
upon her lashes, and, with an uncontrollable impulse, she raised his
hand to her lips.

"I am about to test the sincerity of your gratitude, I doubt it."

She trembled, and looked at Mm uneasily. He laid his hand on her
shoulder, and said slowly:

"Relinquish the idea of teaching. Let me present you to society as
my adopted child. Thus you can requite the debt."

"I cannot! I cannot!" cried Beulah firmly, though tears gushed over
her cheeks.

"Cannot? cannot?" repeated the doctor, pressing heavily upon her
shoulders.

"Will not, then!" said she proudly.

They looked at each other steadily. A withering smile of scorn and
bitterness distorted his Apollo-like features, and he pushed her
from him, saying, in the deep, concentrated tone of intense
disappointment:

"I might have known it. I might have expected it; for Fate has
always decreed me just such returns."

Leaning against the sculptured Niobe, which stood near, Beulah
exclaimed, in a voice of great anguish:

"Oh, Dr. Hartwell! do not make me repent the day I entered this
house. God knows I am grateful, very grateful, for your unparalleled
kindness. Oh, that it were in my power to prove to you my gratitude!
Do not upbraid me. You knew that I came here only to be educated.
Even then I could not bear the thought of always imposing on your
generosity; and every day that passed strengthened this impatience
of dependence. Through your kindness it is now in my power to
maintain myself, and, after the opening of next session, I cannot
remain any longer the recipient of your bounty. Oh, sir, do not
charge me with ingratitude! It is more than I can bear; more than I
can bear!"

"Mark me, Beulah! Your pride will wreck you; wreck your happiness,
your peace of mind. Already its iron hand is crushing your young
heart. Beware lest, in yielding to its decrees, you become the
hopeless being a similar course has rendered me. Beware! But why
should I warn you? Have not my prophecies ever proved Cassandran?
Leave me."

"No, I will not leave you in anger." She drew near him and took his
hand in both hers. The fingers were cold and white as marble, rigid
and inflexible as steel.

"My guardian, would you have me take a step (through fear of your
displeasure) which would render my life a burden? Will you urge me
to remain, when I tell you that I cannot be happy here? I think
not."

"Urge you to remain? By the Furies--no! I urge you to go! Yes--go! I
no longer want you here. Your presence would irritate me beyond
measure. But listen to me. I am going to New York on business; had
intended taking you with me; but, since you are so stubbornly proud,
I can consent to leave you. I shall start to-morrow evening--rather
earlier than I expected--and shall not return before September,
perhaps even later. What your plans are I shall not inquire; but it
is my request that you remain in this house, under Mrs. Watson's
care, until your school duties commence; then you will, I suppose,
remove elsewhere. I also request, particularly, that you will not
hesitate to use the contents of a purse which I shall leave on my
desk for you. Remember that in coming years, when trials assail you,
if you need a friend, I will still assist you. You will leave me
now, if you please, as I have some letters to write." He motioned
her away, and, unable to frame any reply, she left the room.

Though utterly miserable, now that her guardian seemed so completely
estranged, her proud nature rebelled at his stern dismissal, and a
feeling of reckless defiance speedily dried the tears on her cheek.
That he should look down upon her with scornful indifference stung
her almost to desperation, and she resolved, instead of weeping, to
meet and part with him as coldly as his contemptuous treatment
justified. Weary in mind and body she fell asleep, and soon forgot
all her plans and sorrows. The sun was high in the heavens when
Harriet waked her, and, starting up, she asked:

"What time is it? How came I to sleep so late?"

"It is eight o'clock. Master ate breakfast an hour ago. Look here,
child; what is to pay? Master is going off to the North, to be gone
till October. He sat up all night, writing and giving orders about
things on the place, 'specially the greenhouse and the flower seeds
to be saved in the front yard. He has not been in such a way since
seven years ago. What is in the wind now? What ails him?" Harriet
sat with her elbows on her knees, and her wrinkled face resting in
the palms of her hands. She looked puzzled and discontented.

"He told me last night that he expected to leave home this evening;
that he was going to New York on business." Beulah affected
indifference; but the searching eyes of the old woman were fixed on
her, and, as she turned away, Harriet exclaimed:

"Going this evening! Why, child, he has gone. Told us all good-by,
from Mrs. Watson down to Charon. Said his trunk must be sent down to
the wharf at three o'clock; that he would not have time to come home
again. There, good gracious! you are as white as a sheet; I will
fetch you some wine." She hurried out, and Beulah sank into a chair,
stunned by the intelligence.

When Harriet proffered a glass of cordial she declined it, and said
composedly:

"I will come, after a while, and take my breakfast. There is no
accounting for your master's movements. I would as soon engage to
keep up with a comet. There, let go my dress; I am going into the
study for a while." She went slowly down the steps and, locking the
door of the study to prevent intrusion, looked around the room.
There was an air of confusion, as though books and chairs had been
hastily moved about. On the floor lay numerous shreds of crape, and,
glancing up, she saw, with surprise, that the portrait had been
closely wrapped in a sheet and suspended with the face to the wall.
Instantly an uncontrollable desire seized her to look at that face.
She had always supposed it to be his wife's likeness, and longed to
gaze upon the features of one whose name her husband had never
mentioned. The mantel was low, and, standing on a chair, she
endeavored to catch the cord which supported the frame; but it hung
too high. She stood on the marble mantel, and stretched her hands
eagerly up; but though her fingers touched the cord she could not
disengage it from the hook, and, with a sensation of keen
disappointment, she was forced to abandon the attempt. A note on the
desk attracted her attention. It was directed to her, and contained
only a few words:

"Accompanying this is a purse containing a hundred dollars. In any
emergency which the future may present, do not hesitate to call on
YOUR GUARDIAN."

She laid her head down on his desk and sobbed bitterly. For the
first time she realized that he had indeed gone--gone without one
word of adieu, one look of kindness or reconciliation. Her tortured
heart whispered: "Write him a note; ask him to come home; tell him
you will not leave his house." But pride answered: "He is a tyrant;
don't be grieved at his indifference; he is nothing to you; go to
work boldly and repay the money you have cost him." Once more, as in
former years, a feeling of desolation crept over her. She had
rejected her guardian's request, and isolated herself from sympathy;
for who would assist and sympathize with her mental difficulties as
he had done? The tears froze in her eyes, and she sat for some time
looking at the crumpled note. Gradually an expression of proud
defiance settled on her features; she took the purse, walked up to
her room, and put on her bonnet and mantle. Descending to the
breakfast room, she drank a cup of coffee, and, telling Mrs. Watson
she would be absent an hour or two, left the house and proceeded to
Madam St. Cymon's. She asked to see Miss Sanders, and, after waiting
a few minutes in the parlor, Clara made her appearance. She looked
wan and weary, but greeted her friend with a gentle smile.

"I heard of your triumph yesterday, Beulah, and most sincerely
congratulate you."

"I am in no mood for congratulations just now. Clara, did not you
tell me, a few days since, that the music teacher of this
establishment was ill and that Madam St. Cymon was anxious to
procure another?"

"Yes; I have no idea she will ever be well again. If strong enough
she is going back to her family in Philadelphia next week. Why do
you ask?"

"I want to get the situation, and wish you would say to madam that I
have called to see her about it. I will wait here till you speak to
her."

"Beulah, are you mad? Dr. Hartwell never will consent to your
teaching music!" cried Clara, with astonishment written on every
feature.

"Dr. Hartwell is not my master, Clara Sanders! Will you speak to
madam, or shall I have to do it?"

"Certainly, I will speak to her. But oh, Beulah! are you wild enough
to leave your present home for such a life?"

"I have been elected a teacher in the public schools but shall have
nothing to do until the first of October. In the meantime I intend
to give music lessons. If madam will employ me for two months she
may be able to procure a professor by the opening of the next term.
And, further, if I can make this arrangement I am coming immediately
to board with Mrs. Hoyt. Now speak to madam for me, will you?"

"One moment more. Does the doctor know of all this?"

"He knows that I intend to teach in the public school. He goes to
New York this afternoon."

Clara looked at her mournfully, and said, with sad emphasis:

"Oh, Beulah! you may live to rue your rashness."

To Madam St. Cymon the proposal was singularly opportune, and,
hastening to meet the applicant, she expressed much pleasure at
seeing Miss Benton again. She was very anxious to procure a teacher
for the young ladies boarding with her, and for her own daughters,
and the limited engagement would suit very well. She desired,
however, to hear Miss Benton perform. Beulah took off her gloves and
played several very difficult pieces with the ease which only
constant practice and skillful training can confer. Madam declared
herself more than satisfied with her proficiency, and requested her
to commence her instructions on the following day. She had given the
former teacher six hundred dollars a year, and would allow Miss
Benton eighty dollars for the two months. Beulah was agreeably
surprised at the ample remuneration, and, having arranged the hours
of her attendance at the school, she took leave of the principal.
Clara called to her as she reached the street; and, assuming a
gayety which, just then, was very foreign to her real feelings,
Beulah answered:

"It is all arranged. I shall take tea with you in my new home,
provided Mrs. Hoyt can give me a room." She kissed her hand and
hurried away. Mrs. Hoyt found no difficulty in providing a room;
and, to Beulah's great joy, managed to have a vacant one adjoining
Clara's. She was a gentle, warmhearted woman; and as Beulah examined
the apartment and inquired the terms, she hesitated, and said:

"My terms are thirty dollars a month; but you are poor, I judge, and
being Miss Clara's friend I will only charge you twenty-five."

"I do not wish you to make any deduction in my favor. I will take
the room at thirty dollars," answered Beulah rather haughtily.

"Very well. When will you want it?"

"Immediately. Be kind enough to have it in readiness for me. I shall
come this afternoon. Could you give me some window curtains? I
should like it better, if you could do so without much
inconvenience."

"Oh, certainly! they were taken down yesterday to be washed.
Everything shall be in order for you."

It was too warm to walk home again, and Beulah called a carriage.
The driver had not proceeded far when a press of vehicles forced him
to pause a few minutes. They happened to stand near the post office,
and, as Beulah glanced at the eager crowd collected in front, she
started violently on perceiving her guardian. He stood on the
corner, talking to a gentleman of venerable aspect, and she saw that
he looked harassed. She was powerfully impelled to beckon him to
her, and at least obtain a friendly adieu; but again pride
prevailed. He had deliberately left her, without saying good-by, and
she would not force herself on his notice. Even as she dropped her
veil to avoid observation the carriage rolled on, and she was soon
at Dr. Hartwell's door. Unwilling to reflect on the steps she had
taken, she busied herself in packing her clothes and books. On every
side were tokens of her guardian's constant interest and
remembrance--pictures, vases, and all the elegant appendages of a
writing-desk. At length the last book was stowed avay and nothing
else remained to engage her. The beautiful little Nuremberg clock on
the mantel struck two, and, looking up, she saw the solemn face of
Harriet, who was standing in the door. Her steady, wondering gaze
disconcerted Beulah, despite her assumed indifference.

"What is the meaning of all this commotion? Hal says you ordered the
carriage to be ready at five o'clock to take you away from here. Oh,
child! what are things coming to? What will master say? What won't
he say? What are you quitting this house for, where you have been
treated as well as if it belonged to you? What ails you?"

"Nothing. I have always intended to leave here as soon as I was able
to support myself. I can do so now, very easily, and am going to
board. Your master knows I intend to teach."

"But he has no idea that you are going to leave here before he comes
home, for he gave us all express orders to see that you had just
what you wanted. Oh, he will be in a tearing rage when he hears of
it! Don't anger him, child! Do, pray, for mercy's sake, don't anger
him! He never forgets anything! When he once sets his head he is
worse than David or the Philistines! If he is willing to support you
it is his own lookout. He is able, and his money is his own. His kin
won't get it. He and his brother don't speak; and as for Miss May!
they never did get along in peace, even before he was married. So,
if he chooses to give some of his fortune to you, it is nobody's
business but his own; and you are mighty simple, I can tell you, if
you don't stay here and take it."

"That will do, Harriet. I do not wish any more advice. I don't want
your master's fortune, even if I had the offer of it! I am
determined to make my own living; so just say no more about it."

"Take care, child. Remember, 'Pride goeth before a fall'!"

"What do you mean?" cried Beulah angrily.

"I mean that the day is coming when you will be glad enough to come
back and let my master take care of you! That's what I mean. And see
if it doesn't come to pass. But he will not do it then; I tell you
now he won't. There is no forgiving spirit about him; he is as
fierce, and bears malice as long, as a Comanche Injun! It is no
business of mine though. I have said my say; and I will be bound you
will go your own gait. You are just about as hard-headed as he is
himself. Anybody would almost believe you belonged to the Hartwell
family. Every soul of them is alike in the matter of temper; only
Miss Pauline has something of her pa's disposition. I suppose, now
her ma is married again, she will want to come back to her uncle;
should not wonder if he 'dopted her, since you have got the bit
between your teeth."

"I hope he will," answered Beulah. She ill brooked Harriet's plain
speech, but remembrances of past affection checked the severe rebuke
which more than once rose to her lips.

"We shall see; we shall see!" And Harriet walked off with anything
but a placid expression of countenance, while Beulah sought Mrs.
Watson to explain her sudden departure and acquaint her with her
plans for the summer. The housekeeper endeavored most earnestly to
dissuade her from taking the contemplated step, assuring her that
the doctor would be grieved and displeased; but her arguments
produced no effect, and, with tears of regret, she bade her
farewell.

The sun was setting when Beulah took possession of her room at Mrs.
Hoyt's house. The furniture was very plain, and the want of several
articles vividly recalled the luxurious home she had abandoned. She
unpacked and arranged her clothes, and piled her books on a small
table, which was the only substitute for her beautiful desk and
elegant rosewood bookcase. She had gathered a superb bouquet of
flowers as she crossed the front yard, and, in lieu of her Sevres
vases, placed them in a dim-looking tumbler which stood on the tall,
narrow mantelpiece. Her room was in the third story, with two
windows, one opening to the south and one to the west. It grew dark
by the time she had arranged the furniture, and, too weary to think
of going down to tea, she unbound her hair and took a seat beside
the window. The prospect was extended; below her were countless
lamps, marking the principal streets; and, in the distance, the dark
cloud of masts told that river and bay might be distinctly seen by
daylight. The quiet stars looked dim through the dusty atmosphere,
and the noise of numerous vehicles rattling by produced a confused
impression, such as she had never before received at this usually
calm twilight season. The events of the day passed in a swift
review, and a mighty barrier seemed to have sprung up (as by some
foul spell) between her guardian and herself. What an immeasurable
gulf now yawned to separate them! Could it be possible that the
friendly relations of years were thus suddenly and irrevocably
annulled? Would he relinquish all interest in one whom he had so
long watched over and directed? Did he intend that they should be
completely estranged henceforth? For the first time since Lilly's
death she felt herself thrown upon the world. Alone and unaided, she
was essaying to carve her own fortune from the huge quarries where
thousands were diligently laboring. An undefinable feeling of
desolation crept into her heart; but she struggled desperately
against it, and asked, in proud defiance of her own nature:

"Am I not sufficient unto myself? Leaning only on myself, what more
should I want? Nothing! His sympathy is utterly unnecessary."

A knock at the door startled her, and, in answer to her "Come in,"
Clara Sanders entered. She walked slowly, and, seating herself
beside Beulah, said, in a gentle but weary tone:

"How do you like your room? I am so glad it opens into mine."

"Quite as well as I expected. The view from this window must be very
fine. There is the tea-bell, I suppose. Are you not going down? I am
too much fatigued to move."

"No; I never want supper, and generally spend the evenings in my
room. It is drearily monotonous here. Nothing to vary the routine
for me, except my afternoon walk, and recently the warm weather has
debarred me even from that. You are a great walker, I believe, and I
look forward to many pleasant rambles with you when I feel stronger
and autumn comes. Beulah, how long does Dr. Hartwell expect to
remain at the North? He told me, some time ago, that he was a
delegate to the Medical Convention."

"I believe it is rather uncertain; but probably he will not return
before October."

"Indeed! That is a long time for a physician to absent himself."

Just then an organ-grinder paused on the pavement beneath the window
and began a beautiful air from "Sonnambula." It was a favorite song
of Beulah's, and, as the melancholy tones swelled on the night air,
they recalled many happy hours spent in the quiet study beside the
melodeon. She leaned out of the window till the last echo died away,
and, as the musician shouldered his instrument and trudged off, she
said abruptly:

"Is there not a piano in the house!"

"Yes; just such a one as you might expect to find in a boarding
house, where unruly children are thrumming upon it from morning till
night. It was once a fine instrument, but now is only capable of
excruciating discords. You will miss your grand piano."

"I must have something in my own room to practice on. Perhaps I can
hire a melodeon or piano for a moderate sum. I will try to-morrow."

"The Grahams are coming home soon, I hear. One of the principal
upholsterers boards here, and he mentioned this morning at breakfast
that he had received a letter from Mr. Graham, directing him to
attend to the unpacking of an entirely new set of furniture.
Everything will be on a grand scale. I suppose Eugene returns with
them?"

"Yes; they will all arrive in November."

"It must be a delightful anticipation for you."

"Why so, pray?"

"Why? Because you and Euguene are such old friends."

"Oh, yes; as far as Eugene is concerned, of course it is a very
pleasant anticipation."

"He is identified with the Grahams."

"Not necessarily," answered Beulah coldly.

A sad smile flitted over Clara's sweet face as she rose and kissed
her friend's brow, saying gently:

"Good-night, dear. I have a headache, and must try to sleep it off.
Since you have determined to battle with difficulties I am very glad
to have you here with me. I earnestly hope that success may crown
your efforts and the sunshine of happiness dispel for you the
shadows that have fallen thick about my pathway. You have been rash,
Beulah, and short-sighted; but I trust that all will prove for the
best. Good-night."

She glided away, and, locking the door, Beulah returned to her seat
and laid her head wearily down on the window-sill. What a Hermes is
thought! Like a vanishing dream fled the consciousness of
surrounding objects, and she was with Eugene. Now, in the earlier
years of his absence, she was in Heidelberg, listening to the
evening chimes, and rambling with him through the heart of the
Odenwald. Then they explored the Hartz, climbed the Brocken, and
there, among the clouds, discussed the adventures of Faust and his
kinsman, Manfred. Anon, the arrival of the Grahams disturbed the
quiet of Eugene's life, and, far away from the picturesque haunts of
Heidelberg students, he wandered with them over Italy, Switzerland,
and France. Engrossed by these companions, he no longer found time
to commune with her, and when occasionally he penned a short letter
it was hurried, constrained, and unsatisfactory. One topic had
become stereotyped; he never failed to discourage the idea of
teaching; urged most earnestly the folly of such a step, and dwelt
upon the numerous advantages of social position arising from a
residence under her guardian's roof. We have seen that from the hour
of Lilly's departure from the asylum Beulah's affections, hopes,
pride, all centered in Eugene. There had long existed a tacit
compact which led her to consider her future indissolubly linked
with his; and his parting words seemed to seal this compact as holy
and binding, when he declared, "I mean, of course, to take care of
you myself, when I come home, for you know you belong to me." His
letters for many months retained the tone of dictatorship, but the
tenderness seemed all to have melted away. He wrote as if with a
heart preoccupied by weightier matters, and now Beulah could no
longer conceal from herself the painful fact that the man was far
different from the boy. After five years' absence he was coming back
a man; engrossed by other thoughts and feelings than those which had
prompted him in days gone by. With the tenacious hope of youth she
still trusted that she might have misjudged him; he could never be
other than noble and generous; she would silence her forebodings and
wait till his return. She wished beyond all expression to see him
once more, and the prospect of a speedy reunion often made her heart
throb painfully. That he would reproach her for her obstinate
resolution of teaching, she was prepared to expect; but, strong in
the consciousness of duty, she committed herself to the care of a
merciful God, and soon slept as soundly as though under Dr.
Hartwell's roof.



CHAPTER XVII.


Sometimes, after sitting for five consecutive hours at the piano,
guiding the clumsy fingers of tyros, and listening to a tiresome
round of scales and exercises, Beulah felt exhausted, mentally and
physically, and feared that she had miserably overrated her powers
of endurance. The long, warm days of August dragged heavily by, and
each night she felt grateful that the summer was one day nearer its
grave. One afternoon she proposed to Clara to extend their walk to
the home of her guardian, and, as she readily assented, they left
the noise and crowd of the city, and soon found themselves on the
common.

"This is my birthday," said Beulah, as they passed a clump of pines
and caught a glimpse of the white gate beyond.

"Ah! How old are you?"

"Eighteen--but I feel much older."

She opened the gate, and, as they leisurely ascended the avenue of
aged cedars, Beulah felt once more as if she were going home. A
fierce bark greeted her, and the next moment Charon rushed to meet
her; placing his huge paws on her shoulders, and whining and barking
joyfully. He bounded before her to the steps, and lay down
contentedly on the piazza. Harriet's turbaned head appeared at the
entrance, and a smile of welcome lighted up her ebon face, as she
shook Beulah's hand.

Mrs. Watson was absent, and, after a few questions, Beulah entered
the study, saying:

"I want some books, Harriet; and Miss Sanders wishes to see the
paintings."

Ah! every chair and book-shelf greeted her like dear friends, and
she bent down over some volumes to hide the tears that sprang into
her eyes. The only really happy portion of her life had been passed
here; every article in the room was dear from association, and,
though only a month had elapsed since her departure, those bygone
years seemed far, far off, among the mist of very distant
recollections. Thick and fast fell the hot drops, until her eyes
were blinded, and she could no longer distinguish the print they
were riveted on. The memory of kind smiles haunted her, and kinder
tones seemed borne to her from every corner of the apartment. Clara
was eagerly examining the paintings, and neither of the girls
observed Harriet's entrance, until she asked:

"Do you know that the yellow fever has broke out here?"

"Oh, you are mistaken! It can't be possible!" cried Clara, turning
pale.

"I tell you, it is a fact. There are six cases now at the hospital;
Hal was there this morning. I have lived here a good many years,
and, from the signs, I think we are going to have dreadfully sickly
times. You young ladies had better keep out of the sun; first thing
you know, you will have it."

"Who told you there was yellow fever at the hospital?"

"Dr. Asbury said so; and, what is more, Hal has had it himself, and
nursed people who had it; and he says it is the worst sort of yellow
fever."

"I am not afraid of it," said Beulah, looking up for the first time.

"I am dreadfully afraid of it," answered Clara, with a nervous
shudder.

"Then you had better leave town as quick as possible, for folks who
are easily scared always catch it soonest."

"Nonsense!" cried Beulah, noting the deepening pallor of Clara's
face.

"Oh, I will warrant, if everybody else--every man, woman, and child
in the city--takes it, you won't! Miss Beulah, I should like to know
what you are afraid of!" muttered Harriet, scanning the orphan's
countenance, and adding, in a louder tone: "Have you heard anything
from master?"

"No." Beulah bit her lips to conceal her emotion.

"Hal hears from him. He was in New York when he wrote the last
letter." She took a malicious pleasure in thus torturing her
visitor; and, determined not to gratify her by any manifestation of
interest or curiosity, Beulah took up a couple of volumes and turned
to the door, saying:

"Come, Clara, you must each have a bouquet. Harriet, where are the
flower scissors? Dr. Hartwell never objected to my carefully cutting
even his choicest flowers. There! Clara, listen to the cool rippling
of the fountain. How I have longed to hear its silvery murmur once
more!"

They went out into the front yard. Clara wandered about the flower
beds, gathering blossoms which were scattered in lavish profusion on
all sides; and, leaning over the marble basin, Beulah bathed her
brow in the crystal waters. There were bewitching beauty and
serenity in the scene before her, and as Charon nestled his great
head against her hand she found it very difficult to realize the
fact that she had left this lovely retreat for the small room at
Mrs. Hoyt's boarding house. It was not her habit, however, to
indulge in repinings, and, though her ardent appreciation of beauty
rendered the place incalculably dear to her, she resolutely gathered
a cluster of flowers, bade adieu to Harriet, and descended the
avenue. Charon walked soberly beside her, now and then looking up,
as if to inquire the meaning of her long absence and wonder at her
sudden departure. At the gate she patted him affectionately on the
head and passed out; he made no attempt to follow her, but barked
violently, and then lay down at the gate, whining mournfully.

"Poor Charon! I wish I might have him," said she sadly.

"I dare say the doctor would give him to you," answered Clara very
simply.

"I would just as soon think of asking him for his own head," replied
Beulah.

"It is a mystery to me, Beulah, how you can feel so coldly toward
Dr. Hartwell."

"I should very much like to know what you mean by that?" said
Beulah, involuntarily crushing the flowers she held.

"Why, you speak of him just as you would of anybody else."

"Well?"

"You seem to be afraid of him."

"To a certain extent, I am; and so is everybody else who knows him
intimately."

"This fear is unjust to him."

"How so, pray?"

"Because he is too noble to do aught to inspire it."

"Certainly he is feared, nevertheless, by all who know him well."

"It seems to me that, situated as you have been, you would almost
worship him!"

"I am not addicted to worshiping anything but God!" answered Beulah
shortly.

"You are an odd compound, Beulah. Sometimes I think you must be
utterly heartless!"

"Thank you!"

"Don't be hurt. But you are so cold, so freezing; you chill me."

"Do I? Dr. Hartwell (your Delphic oracle, it seems) says I am as
fierce as a tropical tornado."

"I do not understand how you can bear to give up such an enchanting
home, and go to hard work, as if you were driven to it from
necessity."

"Do not go over all that beaten track again, if you please. It is
not my home! I can be just as happy, nay, happier, in my little
room."

"I doubt it," said Clara pertinaciously.

Stopping suddenly, and fixing her eyes steadily on her companion,
Beulah hastily asked:

"Clara Sanders, why should you care if my guardian and I are
separated?"

A burning blush dyed cheek and brow, as Clara drooped her head, and
answered:

"Because he is my friend also, and I know that your departure will
grieve him."

"You overestimate my worth and his interest. He is a man who lives
in a world of his own and needs no society, save such as is afforded
in his tasteful and elegant home. He loves books, flowers, music,
paintings, and his dog! He is a stern man, and shares his griefs and
joys with no one. All this I have told you before."

There was a long silence, broken at last by an exclamation from
Beulah:

"Oh! how beautiful! how silent! how solemn! Look down the long dim
aisles. It is an oratory where my soul comes to worship! Presently
the breeze will rush up from the gulf, and sweep the green organ,
and a melancholy chant will swell through these dusky arches. Oh,
what are Gothic cathedrals and gilded shrines in comparison with
these grand forest temples, where the dome is the bending vault of
God's blue, and the columns are these everlasting pines!" She
pointed to a thick clump of pines sloping down to a ravine.

The setting sun threw long quivering rays through the clustering
boughs, and the broken beams, piercing the gloom beyond, showed the
long aisles as in a "cathedral light."

As Clara looked down the dim glade, and then watched Beulah's parted
lips and sparkling eyes, as she stood bending forward with rapturous
delight written on every feature, she thought that she had indeed
misjudged her in using the epithets "freezing and heartless."

"You are enthusiastic," said she gently.

"How can I help it? I love the grand and beautiful too well to offer
a tribute of silent admiration. Oh, my homage is that of a whole
heart!"

They reached home in the gloaming, and each retired to her own room.
For a mere trifle Beulah had procured the use of a melodeon, and
now, after placing the drooping flowers in water, she sat down
before the instrument and poured out the joy of her soul in song.
Sad memories no longer floated like corpses on the sea of the past;
grim forebodings crouched among the mists of the future, and she
sang song after song, exulting in the gladness of her heart. An
analysis of these occasional hours of delight was as impossible as
their creation. Sometimes she was conscious of their approach, while
gazing up at the starry islets in the boundless lake of azure sky;
or when a gorgeous sunset pageant was passing away; sometimes from
hearing a solemn chant in church, or a witching strain from a
favorite opera. Sometimes from viewing dim old pictures; sometimes
from reading a sublime passage in some old English or German author.
It was a serene elevation of feeling; an unbounded peace; a
chastened joyousness, which she was rarely able to analyze, but
which isolated her for a time from all surrounding circumstances.
How long she sang on the present occasion she knew not, and only
paused on hearing a heavy sob behind her. Turning round, she saw
Clara sitting near, with her face in her hands. Kneeling beside her,
Beulah wound her arms around her, and asked earnestly:

"What troubles you, my friend? May I not know?"

Clara dropped her head on Beulah's shoulder, and answered
hesitatingly:

"The tones of your voice always sadden me. They are like organ
notes, solemn and awful! Yes, awful; and yet very sweet--sweeter
than any music I ever heard. Your singing fascinates me, yet,
strange as it may seem, it very often makes me weep. There is an
unearthliness, a spirituality that affects me singularly."

"I am glad that is all. I was afraid you were distressed about
something. Here, take my rocking chair; I am going to read, and, if
you like, you may have the benefit of my book."

"Beulah, do put away your books for one night, and let us have a
quiet time. Don't study now. Come, sit here, and talk to me."

"Flatterer, do you pretend that you prefer my chattering to the
wonderful words of a man who 'talked like an angel'? You must listen
to the tale of that 'Ancient Mariner with glittering eye.'"

"Spare me that horrible ghostly story of vessels freighted with
staring corpses! Ugh! it curdled the blood in my veins once, and I
shut the book in disgust. Don't begin it now, for Heaven's sake!"

"Why, Clara! It is the most thrilling poem in the English language.
Each reperusal fascinates me more and more. It requires a dozen
readings to initiate you fully into its weird, supernatural realms."

"Yes; and it is precisely for that reason that I don't choose to
hear it. There is quite enough of the grim and hideous in reality
without hunting it up in pages of fiction. When I read I desire to
relax my mind, not put it on the rack, as your favorite books
invariably do. Absolutely, Beulah, after listening to some of your
pet authors, I feel as if I had been standing on my head. You need
not look so coolly incredulous; it is a positive fact. As for that
'Ancient Mariner' you are so fond of, I am disposed to take the
author's own opinion of it, as expressed in those lines addressed to
himself."

"I suppose, then, you fancy 'Christabel' as little as the other,
seeing that it is a tale of witchcraft. How would you relish that
grand anthem to nature's God, written in the vale of Chamouni?"

"I never read it," answered Clara very quietly.

"What? Never read 'Sibylline Leaves'? Why, I will wager my head that
you have parsed from them a thousand times! Never read that
magnificent hymn before sunrise, in the midst of glaciers and snow-
crowned, cloud-piercing peaks? Listen, then; and if you don't feel
like falling upon your knees, you have not a spark of poetry in your
soul!"

She drew the lamp close to her, and read aloud. Her finely modulated
voice was peculiarly adapted to the task, and her expressive
countenance faithfully depicted the contending emotions which filled
her mind as she read. Clara listened with pleased interest, and,
when the short poem was concluded, said:

"Thank you; it is beautiful. I have often seen extracts from it.
Still, there is a description of Mont Blanc in 'Manfred' which I
believe I like quite as well."

"What? That witch fragment?"

"Yes."

"I don't understand 'Manfred.' Here and there are passages in
cipher. I read and catch a glimpse of hidden meaning; I read again,
and it vanishes in mist. It seems to me a poem of symbols, dimly
adumbrating truths, which my clouded intellect clutches at in vain.
I have a sort of shadowy belief that 'Astarte,' as in its ancient
mythological significance, symbolizes nature. There is a dusky vein
of mystery shrouding her, which favors my idea of her as
representing the universe. Manfred, with daring hand, tore away that
'Veil of Isis' which no mortal had ever pierced before, and,
maddened by the mockery of the stony features, paid the penalty of
his sacrilegious rashness, and fled from the temple, striving to
shake off the curse. My guardian has a curious print of 'Astarte,'
taken from some European Byronic gallery. I have studied it until
almost it seemed to move and speak to me. She is clad in the ghostly
drapery of the tomb, just as invoked by Nemesis, with trailing
tresses, closed eyes, and folded hands. The features are dim,
spectral, yet marvelously beautiful. Almost one might think the
eyelids quivered, there is such an air of waking dreaminess. That
this is a false and inadequate conception of Byron's 'Astarte' I
feel assured, and trust that I shall yet find the key to this
enigma. It interests me greatly, and, by some inexplicable process,
whenever I sit pondering the mystery of Astarte, that wonderful
creation in 'Shirley' presents itself. Astarte becomes in a trice
that 'woman-Titan' Nature, kneeling before the red hills of the
west, at her evening prayers. I see her prostrate on the great steps
of her altar, praying for a fair night, for mariners at sea, for
lambs in moors, and unfledged birds in woods. Her robe of blue air
spreads to the outskirts of the heath. A veil, white as an
avalanche, sweeps from her head to her feet, and arabesques of
lightning flame on its borders. I see her zone, purple, like the
horizon; through its blush shines the star of evening. Her forehead
has the expanse of a cloud, and is paler than the early moon, risen
long before dark gathers. She reclines on the ridge of Stillbro-
Moor, her mighty hands are joined beneath it. So kneeling, face to
face, 'Nature speaks with God.' Oh! I would give twenty years of my
life to have painted that Titan's portrait. I would rather have been
the author of this than have wielded the scepter of Zenobia, in the
palmiest days of Palmyra!"

She spoke rapidly, and with white lips that quivered. Clara looked
at her wonderingly, and said hesitatingly:

"I don't understand the half of what you have been saying, It sounds
to me very much as if you had stumbled into a lumber room of queer
ideas; snatched up a handful, all on different subjects, and woven
them into a speech as incongruous as Joseph's variegated coat."
There was no reply. Beulah's hands were clasped on the table before
her, and she leaned forward with eyes fixed steadily on the floor.
Clara waited a moment, and then continued:

"I never noticed any of the mysteries of 'Manfred' that seem to
trouble you so much. I enjoy the fine passages, and never think of
the hidden meanings, as you call them; whereas it seems you are
always plunging about in the dark, hunting you know not what. I am
content to glide on the surface, and--"

"And live in the midst of foam and bubbles!" cried Beulah, with a
gesture of impatience.

"Better that than grope among subterranean caverns, black and icy,
as you are forever doing. You are even getting a weird, unearthly
look. Sometimes, when I come in and find you, book in hand, with
that far-off expression in your eyes, I really dislike to speak to
you. There is no more color in your face and hands than in that wall
yonder. You will dig your grave among books, if you don't take care.
There is such a thing as studying too much. Your mind is perpetually
at work; all day you are thinking, thinking, thinking; and at night,
since the warm weather has made me open the door between our rooms,
I hear you talking earnestly and rapidly in your sleep. Last week I
came in on tiptoe, and stood a few minutes beside your bed. The moon
shone in through the window, and though you were fast asleep, I saw
that you tossed your hands restlessly; while I stood there you spoke
aloud, in an incoherent manner, of the 'Dream Fugue,' and 'Vision of
Sudden Death,' and now and then you frowned, and sighed heavily, as
if you were in pain. Music is a relaxation to most people, but it
seems to put your thoughts on the rack. You will wear yourself out
prematurely if you don't quit this constant studying."

She rose to go, and, glancing up at her, Beulah answered musingly:

"We are very unlike. The things that I love you shrink from as dull
and tiresome. I live in a different world. Books are to me what
family, and friends, and society are to other people. It may be that
the isolation of my life necessitates this. Doubtless, you often
find me abstracted. Are you going so soon? I had hoped we should
spend a profitable evening, but it has slipped away, and I have done
nothing. Good-night." She rose and gave the customary good-night
kiss, and, as Clara retired to her own room, Beulah turned up the
wick of her lamp and resumed her book. The gorgeous mazes of
Coleridge no longer imprisoned her fancy; it wandered mid the
silence, and desolation, and sand rivulets of the Thebaid desert;
through the date groves of the lonely Laura; through the museums of
Alexandria. Over the cool, crystal depths of "Hypatia" her thirsty
spirit hung eagerly. In Philammon's intellectual nature she found a
startling resemblance to her own. Like him, she had entered a
forbidden temple, and learned to question; and the same "insatiable
craving to know the mysteries of learning" was impelling her, with
irresistible force, out into the world of philosophic inquiry. Hours
fled on unnoted; with nervous haste the leaves were turned. The town
clock struck three. As she finished the book and laid it on the
table she bowed her head upon her hands. She was bewildered. Was
Kingsley his own Raphael-Aben-Ezra? or did he heartily believe in
the Christianity of which he had given so hideous a portraiture? Her
brain whirled, yet there was a great dissatisfaction. She could not
contentedly go back to the Laura with Philammon; "Hypatia" was not
sufficiently explicit. She was dissatisfied; there was more than
this Alexandrian ecstasy to which Hypatia was driven; but where, and
how should she find it? Who would guide her? Was not her guardian,
in many respects, as skeptical as Raphael himself? Dare she enter,
alone and unaided, this Cretan maze of investigation, where all the
wonderful lore of the gifted Hypatia had availed nothing? What was
her intellect given her for, if not to be thus employed? Her head
ached with the intensity of thought, and, as she laid it on her
pillow and closed her eyes, day looked out over the eastern sky.

The ensuing week was one of anxious apprehension to all within the
city. Harriet's words seemed prophetic; there was every intimation
of a sickly season. Yellow fever had made its appearance in several
sections of the town in its most malignant type. The board of health
devised various schemes for arresting the advancing evil. The
streets were powdered with lime and huge fires of tar kept
constantly burning, yet daily, hourly, the fatality increased; and,
as colossal ruin strode on, the terrified citizens fled in all
directions. In ten days the epidemic began to make fearful havoc;
all classes and ages were assailed indiscriminately. Whole families
were stricken down in a day, and not one member spared to aid the
others. The exodus was only limited by impossibility; all who could
abandoned their homes and sought safety in flight. These were the
fortunate minority; and, as if resolved to wreak its fury on the
remainder, the contagion spread into every quarter of the city. Not
even physicians were spared; and those who escaped trembled in
anticipation of the fell stroke. Many doubted that it was yellow
fever, and conjectured that the veritable plague had crossed the
ocean. Of all Mrs. Hoyt's boarders, but half a dozen determined to
hazard remaining in the infected region. These were Beulah, Clara,
and four gentlemen. Gladly would Clara have fled to a place of
safety, had it been in her power; but there was no one to accompany
or watch over her, and as she was forced to witness the horrors of
the season a sort of despair seemed to nerve her trembling frame.
Mrs. Watson had been among the first to leave the city. Madam St.
Cymon had disbanded her school; and, as only her three daughters
continued to take music lessons, Beulah had ample leisure to
contemplate the distressing scenes which surrounded her. At noon,
one September day, she stood at the open window of her room. The air
was intensely hot; the drooping leaves of the China trees were
motionless; there was not a breath of wind stirring; and the sable
plumes of the hearses were still as their burdens. The brazen,
glittering sky seemed a huge glowing furnace, breathing out only
scorching heat. Beulah leaned out of the window, and, wiping away
the heavy drops that stood on her brow, looked down the almost
deserted street. Many of the stores were closed; whilom busy haunts
were silent; and very few persons were visible, save the drivers of
two hearses and of a cart filled with coffins. The church bells
tolled unceasingly, and the desolation, the horror, were
indescribable, as the sable wings of the Destroyer hung over the
doomed city. Out of her ten fellow-graduates, four slept in the
cemetery. The night before she had watched beside another, and at
dawn saw the limbs stiffen and the eyes grow sightless. Among her
former schoolmates the contagion had been particularly fatal, and,
fearless of danger, she had nursed two of them. As she stood fanning
herself, Clara entered hurriedly, and, sinking into a chair,
exclaimed, in accents of terror:

"It has come! as I knew it would! Two of Mrs. Hoyt's children have
been taken, and, I believe, one of the waiters also! Merciful God!
what will become of me?" Her teeth chattered, and she trembled from
head to foot.

"Don't be alarmed, Clara! Your excessive terror is your greatest
danger. If you would escape you must keep as quiet as possible."

She poured out a glass of water and made her drink it; then asked:

"Can Mrs. Hoyt get medical aid?"

"No; she has sent for every doctor in town, and not one has come."

"Then I will go down and assist her." Beulah turned toward the door,
but Clara caught her dress, and said hoarsely:

"Are you mad, thus continually to put your life in jeopardy? Are you
shod with immortality, that you thrust yourself into the very path
of destruction?"

"I am not afraid of the fever, and therefore think I shall not take
it. As long as I am able to be up I shall do all that I can to
relieve the sick. Remember, Clara, nurses are not to be had now for
any sum." She glided down the steps, and found the terrified mother
wringing her hands helplessly over the stricken ones. The children
were crying on the bed, and, with the energy which the danger
demanded, Beulah speedily ordered the mustard baths, and
administered the remedies she had seen prescribed on previous
occasions. The fever rose rapidly, and, undaunted by thoughts of
personal danger, she took her place beside the bed. It was past
midnight when Dr. Asbury came; exhausted and haggard from
unremitting toil and vigils, he looked several years older than when
she had last seen him. He started on perceiving her perilous post,
and said anxiously:

"Oh, you are rash! very rash! What would Hartwell say? What will he
think when he comes?"

"Comes! Surely you have not urged him to come back now!" said she,
grasping his arm convulsively.

"Certainly. I telegraphed to him to come home by express. You need
not look so troubled; he has had this Egyptian plague, will run no
risk, and, even if he should, will return as soon as possible."

"Are you sure that he has had the fever?"

"Yes, sure. I nursed him myself, the summer after he came from
Europe, and thought he would die. That was the last sickly season we
have had for years, but this caps the climax of all I ever saw or
heard of in America. Thank God, my wife and children are far away;
and, free from apprehension on their account, I can do my duty."

All this was said in an undertone, and, after advising everything
that could possibly be done, he left the room, beckoning Beulah
after him. She followed, and he said earnestly:

"Child, I tremble for you. Why did you leave Hartwell's house and
incur all this peril? Beulah, though it is nobly unselfish in you to
devote yourself to the sick, as you are doing, it may cost you your
life--nay, most probably it will."

"I have thought of it all, sir, and determined to do my duty."

"Then God preserve you. Those children have been taken violently;
watch them closely; good nursing is worth all the apothecary shops.
You need not send for me any more; I am out constantly; whenever I
can I will come; meantime, depend only on the nursing. Should you be
taken yourself, let me know at once; do not fail. A word more--keep
yourself well stimulated."

He hurried away, and she returned to the sickroom, to speculate on
the probability of soon meeting her guardian. Who can tell how
dreary were the days and nights that followed? Mrs. Hoyt took the
fever, and mother and children moaned together. On the morning of
the fourth day the eldest child, a girl of eight years, died, with
Beulah's hand grasped in hers. Happily, the mother was unconscious,
and the little corpse was borne into an adjoining room. Beulah
shrank from the task which she felt for the first time in her life
called on to perform. She could nurse the living, but dreaded the
thought of shrouding the dead. Still, there was no one else to do
it, and she bravely conquered her repugnance, and clad the young
sleeper for the tomb. The gentlemen boarders, who had luckily
escaped, arranged the mournful particulars of the burial; and, after
severing a sunny lock of hair for the mother, should she live,
Beulah saw the cold form borne out to its last resting-place.
Another gloomy day passed slowly, and she was rewarded by the
convalescence of the remaining sick child. Mrs. Hoyt still hung upon
the confines of eternity; and Beulah, who had not closed her eyes
for many nights, was leaning over the bed counting the rushing
pulse, when a rapid step caused her to look up, and, falling forward
in her arms, Clara cried:

"Save me! save me! The chill is on me now!"

It was too true; and as Beulah assisted her to her room and
carefully bathed her feet, her heart was heavy with dire dread lest
Clara's horror of the disease should augment its ravages. Dr. Asbury
was summoned with all haste; but, as usual, seemed an age in coming,
and when at last he came could only prescribe what had already been
done. It was pitiable to watch the agonized expression of Clara's
sweet face, as she looked from the countenance of the physician to
that of her friend, striving to discover their opinion of her case.

"Doctor, you must send Hal to me. He can nurse Mrs. Hoyt and little
Willie while I watch Clara. I can't possibly take care of all three,
though Willie is a great deal better. Can you send him at once? He
is a good nurse."

"Yes; he has been nursing poor Tom Hamil, but he died about an hour
ago, and Hal is released. I look for Hartwell hourly. You do keep up
amazingly! Bless you, Beulah!" Wringing her hand, he descended the
stairs.

Re-entering the room Beulah sat down beside Clara, and taking one
burning hand in her cool palms, pressed it softly, saying in an
encouraging tone:

"I feel so much relieved about Willie; he is a great deal better;
and I think Mrs. Hoyt's fever is abating. You were not taken so
severely as Willie, and if you will go to sleep quietly I believe
you will only have a light attack."

"Did those downstairs have black vomit?" asked Clara shudderingly.

"Lizzie had it; the others did not. Try not to think about it. Go to
sleep."

"What was that the doctor said about Dr. Hartwell? I could not hear
very well, you talked so low. Ah, tell me, Beulah."

"Only that he is coming home soon--that was all. Don't talk any
more."

Clara closed her eyes, but tears stole from beneath the lashes and
coursed rapidly down her glowing cheeks. The lips moved in prayer,
and her fingers closed tightly over those of her companion. Beulah
felt that her continued vigils and exertions were exhausting her.
Her limbs trembled when she walked, and there was a dull pain in her
head which she could not banish. Her appetite had long since
forsaken her, and it was only by the exertion of a determined will
that she forced herself to eat. She was warmly attached to Clara,
and the dread of losing this friend caused her to suffer keenly.
Occasionally she stole away to see the other sufferers, fearing that
when Mrs. Hoyt discovered Lizzie's death the painful intelligence
would seal her own fate. It was late at night. She had just returned
from one of these hasty visits, and, finding that Hal was as
attentive as anyone could be, she threw herself, weary and anxious,
into an armchair beside Clara's bed. The crimson face was turned
toward her, the parched lips parted, the panting breath labored and
irregular. The victim was delirious; the hazel eyes, inflamed and
vacant, rested on Beulah's countenance, and she murmured:

"He will never know! Oh, no! how should he? The grave will soon shut
me in, and I shall see him no more--no more!" She shuddered and
turned away.

Beulah leaned her head against the bed, and, as a tear slid down
upon her hand, she thought and said with bitter sorrow:

"I would rather see her the victim of death than have her drag out
an aimless, cheerless existence, rendered joyless by this hopeless
attachment!"

She wondered whether Dr. Hartwell suspected this love. He was
remarkably quick-sighted, and men, as well as women, were very vain
and wont to give even undue weight to every circumstance which
flattered their self-love. She had long seen this partiality; would
not the object of it be quite as penetrating? Clara was very pretty;
nay, at times she was beautiful. If conscious of her attachment,
could he ever suffer himself to be influenced by it? No; impossible!
There were utter antagonisms of taste and temperament which rendered
it very certain that she would not suit him for a companion. Yet she
was very lovable. Beulah walked softly across the room and leaned
out of the window. An awful stillness brooded over the city.

    "The moving moon went up the sky,
      And nowhere did abide;
     Softly she was going up,
      And a star or two beside."

The soft beams struggled to pierce the murky air, dense with smoke
from the burning pitch. There was no tread on the pavement--all was
solemn as Death, who held such mad revel in the crowded graveyards.
Through the shroud of smoke she could see the rippling waters of the
bay, as the faint southern breeze swept its surface. It was a
desolation realizing all the horrors of the "Masque of the Red
Death," and as she thought of the mourning hearts in that silent
city, of Clara's danger and her own, Beulah repeated sadly those
solemn lines:

   "'Like clouds that rake the mountain summit,
      Or waves that own no curbing hand,
     How fast has brother followed brother,
      From sunshine to the sunless land!'"

Clasping her hands, she added earnestly:

"I thank thee, my Father! that the Atlantic rolls between Eugene and
this 'besom of destruction.'"

A touch on her shoulder caused her to look around, and her eyes
rested on her guardian. She started, but did not speak, and held out
her hand. He looked at her long and searchingly; his lip trembled,
and, instead of taking her offered hand, he passed his arm around
her and drew her to his bosom. She looked up with surprise; and,
bending his haughty head, he kissed her pale brow for the first
time. She felt then that she would like to throw her arms round his
neck and tell him how very glad she was to see him again--how
unhappy his sudden departure had made her; but a feeling she could
not pause to analyze prevented her from following the dictates of
her heart; and, holding her off, so as to scan her countenance, Dr.
Hartwell said:

"How worn and haggard you look! Oh, child! your rash obstinacy has
tortured me beyond expression."

"I have but done my duty. It has been a horrible time. I am glad you
have come. You will not let Clara die."

"Sit down, child. You are trembling from exhaustion."

He drew up a chair for her, and, taking her wrist in his hand, said,
as he examined the slow pulse:

"Was Clara taken violently? How is she?"

"She is delirious, and so much alarmed at her danger that I feel
very uneasy about her. Come and see her; perhaps she will know you."
She led the way to the bedside; but there was no recognition in the
wild, restless eyes, and as she tossed from side to side, her
incoherent muttering made Beulah dread lest she should discover to
its object the adoring love which filled her pure heart. She told
her guardian what had been prescribed. He offered no suggestion as
to the treatment, but gave a potion which she informed him was due.
As Clara swallowed the draught, she looked at him, and said eagerly:

"Has he come? Did he say he would see me and save me? Did Dr.
Hartwell send me this?"

"She raves," said Beulah hastily.

A shadow fell upon his face, and, stooping over the pillow, he
answered very gently:

"Yes; he has come to save you. He is here."

She smiled, and seemed satisfied for a moment; then moaned and
muttered on indistinctly.

"He knows it all? Oh, poor, poor Clara!" thought Beulah. shading her
face to prevent his reading what passed in her mind.

"How long have you been sitting up, Beulah?"

She told him.

"It is no wonder you look as if years had suddenly passed over your
head! You have a room here, I believe. Go to it, and go to sleep; I
will not leave Clara."

It was astonishing how his presence removed the dread weight of
responsibility from her heart. Not until this moment had she felt as
if she could possibly sleep.

"I will sleep now, so as to be refreshed for to-morrow and to-morrow
night. Here is a couch; I will sleep here, and if Clara grows worse
you must wake me." She crossed the room, threw herself on the couch,
and laid her aching head on her arm. Dr. Hartwell placed a pillow
under the head; once more his fingers sought her wrist; once more
his lips touched her forehead, and as he returned to watch beside
Clara and listen to her ravings, Beulah sank into a heavy, dreamless
sleep of exhaustion.



CHAPTER XVIII.


She was awakened by the cool pattering of raindrops, which beat
through the shutters and fell upon her face. She sprang up with a
thrill of delight and looked out. A leaden sky lowered over the
city, and as the torrents came down in whitening sheets, the thunder
rolled continuously overhead, and trailing wreaths of smoke from the
dying fires drooped like banners over the roofs of the houses. Not
the shower which gathered and fell around seagirt Carmel was more
gratefully received.

"Thank God! it rains!" cried Beulah, and, turning toward Clara, she
saw with pain that the sufferer was all unconscious of the tardy
blessing. She kissed the hot, dry brow; but no token of recognition
greeted her anxious gaze. The fever was at its height; the delicate
features were strangely sharpened and distorted. Save the sound of
her labored breathing, the room was silent, and, sinking on her
knees, Beulah prayed earnestly that the gentle sufferer might be
spared. As she rose her guardian entered, and she started at the
haggard, wasted, harassed look of the noble face, which she had not
observed before. He bent down and coaxed Clara to take a spoonful of
medicine, and Beulah asked earnestly:

"Have you been ill, sir?"

"No."

He did not even glance at her. The affectionate cordiality of the
hour of meeting had utterly vanished. He looked as cold, stern, and
impenetrable as some half-buried sphinx of the desert.

"Have you seen the others this morning?" said she, making a strong
effort to conceal the chagrin this revulsion of feeling occasioned.

"Yes; Mrs. Hoyt will get well."

"Does she know of her child's death?"

"Yes."

"You are not going, surely?" she continued, as he took his hat and
glanced at his watch.

"I am needed elsewhere. Only nursing can now avail here. You know
very well what is requisite. Either Dr. Asbury or I will be here
again to-night to sit up with this gentle girl."

"You need neither of you come to sit up with her. I will do that
myself. I shall not sleep another moment until I know that she is
better."

"Very well." He left the room immediately.

"How he cases his volcanic nature in ice!" thought Beulah, sinking
into the armchair. "Last night he seemed so kind, so cordial, so
much my friend and guardian! To-day there is a mighty barrier, as
though he stood on some towering crag and talked to me across an
infinite gulf! Well, well, even an Arctic night passes away; and I
can afford to wait till his humor changes."

For many hours the rain fell unceasingly, but toward sunset the pall
of clouds was scourged on by a brisk western breeze, and the clear
canopy of heaven, no longer fiery as for days past, but cool and
blue, bent serenely over the wet earth. The slanting rays of the
swiftly sinking sun flashed through dripping boughs, creating
myriads of diamond sprays; and over the sparkling waters of the bay
sprang a brilliant bow, arching superbly along the eastern horizon,
where a bank of clouds still lay. Verily, it seemed a new covenant
that the destroying demon should no longer desolate the beautiful
city, and to many an anxious, foreboding heart that glorious rainbow
gave back hope and faith. A cool, quiet twilight followed. Beulah
knew that hearses still bore the dead to their silent chambers; she
could hear the rumbling, the melancholy, solemn sound of the wheels;
but firm trust reigned in her heart, and, with Clara's hand in hers,
she felt an intuitive assurance that the loved one would not yet be
summoned from her earthly field of action. The sick in the other
part of the house were much better, and, though one of the gentlemen
boarders had been taken since morning, she lighted the lamp and
stole about the room with a calmer, happier spirit than she had
known for many days. She fancied that her charge breathed more
easily, and the wild stare of the inflamed eyes was concealed under
the long lashes which lay on the cheeks. The sufferer slept, and the
watcher augured favorably. About nine o'clock she heard steps on the
stairs, and soon after Drs. Asbury and Hartwell entered together.
There was little to be told, and less to be advised, and while the
latter attentively examined the pulse and looked down at the altered
countenance, stamped with the signet of the dread disease, the
former took Beulah's hand in both his, and said kindly:

"How do you do, my little heroine? By Nebros! you are worth your
weight in medical treatises. How are you, little one?"

"Quite well, thank you, sir, and I dare say I am much more able to
sit up with the sick than you, who have had no respite whatever.
Don't stand up, when you must be so weary; take this easy-chair."
Holding his hand firmly, she drew him down to it. There had always
been a fatherly tenderness in his manner toward her, when visiting
at her guardian's, and she regarded him with reverence and
affection. Though often blunt, he never chilled nor repelled her, as
his partner so often did, and now she stood beside him, still
holding one of his hands. He smoothed back the gray hair from his
furrowed brow, and, with a twinkle in his blue eye, said:

"How much will you take for your services? I want to engage you to
teach my madcap daughters a little quiet bravery and uncomplaining
endurance."

"I have none of the Shylock in my composition; only give me a few
kind words and I shall be satisfied. Now, once for all, Dr. Asbury,
if you treat me to any more barefaced flattery of this sort, I nurse
no more of your patients."

Dr. Hartwell here directed his partner's attention to Clara, and,
thoroughly provoked at the pertinacity with which he avoided
noticing her, she seized the brief opportunity to visit Mrs. Hoyt
and little Willie. The mother welcomed her with a silent grasp of
the hand and a gush of tears. But this was no time for
acknowledgments, and Beulah strove, by a few encouraging remarks, to
cheer the bereaved parent and interest Willie, who, like all other
children under such circumstances, had grown fretful. She shook up
their pillows, iced a fresh pitcher of water for them, and,
promising to run down and see them often, now that Hal was forced to
give his attention to the last victim, she noiselessly stole back to
Clara's room. Dr. Hartwell was walking up and down the floor, and
his companion sat just as she had left him. He rose as she entered,
and, putting on his hat, said kindly:

"Are you able to sit up with Miss Sanders to-night? If not, say so
candidly."

"I am able and determined to do so."

"Very well. After to-morrow it will not be needed."

"What do you mean?" cried Beulah, clutching his arm.

"Don't look so savage, child. She will either be convalescent or
beyond all aid. I hope and believe the former. Watch her closely
till I see you again. Good-night, dear child." He stepped to the
door, and, with a slight inclination of his head, Dr. Hartwell
followed him.

It was a vigil Beulah never forgot. The night seemed interminable,
as if the car of time were driven backward, and she longed
inexpressibly for the dawning of day. Four o'clock came at last;
silence brooded over the town; the western breeze had sung itself to
rest, and there was a solemn hush, as though all nature stood still
to witness the struggle between dusky Azrael and a human soul. Clara
slept. The distant stars looked down encouragingly from their homes
of blue, and once more the lonely orphan bent her knee in
supplication before the throne of Jehovah. But a cloud seemed
hovering between her heart and the presence-chamber of Deity. In
vain she prayed, and tried to believe that life would be spared in
answer to her petitions. Faith died in her soul, and she sat with
her eyes riveted upon the face of her friend. The flush of consuming
fever paled, the pulse was slow and feeble, and by the gray light of
day Beulah saw that the face was strangely changed. For several
hours longer she maintained her watch; still the doctor did not
come, and while she sat with Clara's fingers clasped in her, the
brown eyes opened, and looked dreamily at her. She leaned over and,
kissing the wan cheek, asked eagerly:

"How do you feel, darling?"

"Perfectly weak and helpless. How long have I been sick?"

"Only a few days. You are a great deal better now." She tenderly
smoothed the silky hair that clustered in disorder round the face.
Clara seemed perplexed; she thought for a moment, and said feebly:

"Have I been very ill?"

"Well--yes. You have been right sick. Had some fever, but it has
left you."

Clara mused again. Memory came back slowly, and at length she asked:

"Did they all die?"

"Did who die?"

"All those downstairs." She shuddered violently.

"Oh, no! Mrs. Hoyt and Willie are almost well. Try to go to sleep
again, Clara."

Several minutes glided by; the eyes closed, and, clasping Beulah's
fingers tightly, she asked again:

"Have I had any physician?"

"Yes. I thought it would do no harm to have Dr. Asbury see you,"
answered Beulah carelessly. She saw an expression of disappointment
pass sadly over the girl's countenance; and, thinking it might be as
well to satisfy her at once, she continued, as if speaking on
indifferent topics:

"Dr. Hartwell came home since you were taken sick, and called to see
you two or three times."

A faint glow tinged the sallow cheek, and while a tremor crept over
her lips she said almost inaudibly:

"When will he come again?"

"Before long, I dare say. Indeed, there is his step now. Dr. Asbury
is with him."

She had not time to say more, for they came in immediately, and,
with a species of pity she noted the smile of pleasure which curved
Clara's mouth as her guardian bent down and spoke to her. While he
took her thin hand and fixed his eyes on her face, Dr. Asbury looked
over his shoulder, and said bluntly:

"Hurrah for you! All right again, as I thought you would be! Does
your head ache at all this morning? Feel like eating half a dozen
partridges?"

"She is not deaf," said Dr. Hartwell rather shortly.

"I am not so sure of that; she has been to all my questions lately.
I must see about Carter, below. Beulah, child, you look the worse
for your apprenticeship to our profession."

"So do you, sir," said she, smiling as her eyes wandered over his
grim visage.

"You may well say that, child. I snatched about two hours' sleep
this morning, and when I woke I felt very much like Coleridge's
unlucky sailor:

    "'I moved, and could not feel my limbs;
       I was so light--almost,
      I thought that I had died in sleep,
       And was a blessed ghost.'"

He hurried away to another part of the house, and Beulah went into
her own apartment to arrange her hair, which she felt must need
attention sadly.

Looking into the glass she could not forbear smiling at the face
which looked back at her, it was so thin and ghastly; even the lips
were colorless and the large eyes sunken. She unbound her hair, and
had only shaken it fully out, when a knock at her door called her
from the glass. She tossed her hair all back, and it hung like an
inky veil almost to the floor, as she opened the door and confronted
her guardian.

"Here is some medicine which must be mixed in a tumbler of water. I
want a tablespoonful given every hour, unless Clara is asleep. Keep
everything quiet."

"Is that all?" said Beulah coolly.

"That is all." He walked off, and she brushed and twisted up her
hair, wondering how long he meant to keep up that freezing manner.
It accorded very well with his treatment before his departure for
the North, and she sighed as she recalled the brief hour of
cordiality which followed his return. She began to perceive that
this was the way they were to meet in future; she had displeased
him, and he intended that she should feel it. Tears gathered in her
eyes, but she drove them scornfully back, and exclaimed indignantly:

"He wants to rule me with a rod of iron, because I am indebted to
him for an education and support for several years. As I hope for a
peaceful rest hereafter, I will repay him every cent he has expended
for music, drawing, and clothing! I will economize until every
picayune is returned."

The purse had not been touched, and, hastily counting the contents
to see that all the bills were there, she relocked the drawer and
returned to the sickroom with anything but a calm face. Clara seemed
to be asleep, and, picking up a book, Beulah began to read. A
sickroom is always monotonous and dreary, and long confinement had
rendered Beulah restless and uncomfortable. Her limbs ached--so did
her head, and continued loss of sleep made her nervous to an unusual
degree. She longed to open her melodeon and play; this would have
quieted her, but of course was not to be thought of, with four
invalids in the house and death on almost every square in the city.
She was no longer unhappy about Clara, for there was little doubt
that, with care, she would soon be well, and thus drearily the hours
wore on. Finally Clara evinced a disposition to talk. Her nurse
discouraged it, with exceedingly brief replies; intimating that she
would improve her condition by going to sleep. Toward evening Clara
seemed much refreshed by a long nap, and took some food which had
been prepared for her.

"The sickness is abating, is it not, Beulah?"

"Yes, very perceptibly; but more from lack of fresh victims than
anything else. I hope we shall have a white frost soon."

"It has been very horrible! I shudder when I think of it," said
Clara.

"Then don't think of it," answered her companion.

"Oh, how can I help it? I did not expect to live through it. I was
sure I should die when that chill came on. You have saved me, dear
Beulah!" Tears glistened in her soft eyes.

"No; God saved you."

"Through your instrumentality," replied Clara, raising her friend's
hand to her lips.

"Don't talk any more; the doctor expressly enjoined quiet for you."

"I am glad to owe my recovery to him also. How noble and good he is-
-how superior to everybody else!" murmured the sick girl.

Beulah's lips became singularly compact, but she offered no comment.
She walked up and down the room, although so worn out that she could
scarcely keep herself erect. When the doctor came she escaped
unobserved to her room, hastily put on her bonnet, and ran down the
steps for a short walk. It was perfect Elysium to get out once more
under the pure sky and breathe the air, as it swept over the bay,
cool, sweet, and invigorating. The streets were still quiet, but
hearses and carts, filled with coffins, no longer greeted her on
every side, and she walked for several squares. The sun went down,
and, too weary to extend her ramble, she slowly retraced her steps.
The buggy no longer stood at the door, and, after seeing Mrs. Hoyt
and trying to chat pleasantly, she crept back to Clara.

"Where have you been?" asked the latter.

"To get a breath of fresh air and see the sun set."

"Dr. Hartwell asked for you. I did not know what had become of you."

"How do you feel to-night?" said Beulah, laying her hand softly on
Clara's forehead.

"Better, but very weak. You have no idea how feeble I am. Beulah, I
want to know whether--"

"You were told to keep quiet, so don't ask any questions, for I will
not answer one."

"You are not to sit up to-night; the doctor said I would not require
it."

"Let the doctor go back to the North and theorize in his medical
conventions! I shall sleep here by your bed, on this couch. If you
feel worse, call me. Now, good-night; and don't open your lips
again." She drew the couch close to the bed, and, shading the lamp,
threw her weary frame down to rest; ere long she slept. The
pestilential storm had spent its fury. Daily the number of deaths
diminished; gradually the pall of silence and desolation which had
hung over the city vanished. The streets resumed their usual busy
aspect, and the hum of life went forward once more. At length
fugitive families ventured home again; and though bands of crape,
grim badges of bereavement, met the eye on all sides, all rejoiced
that Death had removed his court--that his hideous carnival was
over. Clara regained her strength very slowly; and when well enough
to quit her room, walked with the slow, uncertain step of
feebleness. On the last day of October she entered Beulah's
apartment, and languidly approached the table, where the latter was
engaged in drawing.

"Always at work! Beulah, you give yourself no rest. Day and night
you are constantly busy."

Apparently this remark fell on deaf ears; for, without replying,
Beulah lifted her drawing, looked at it intently, turned it round
once or twice, and then resumed her crayon.

"What a hideous countenance! Who is it?" continued Clara.

"Mors."

"She is horrible! Where did you ever see anything like it?"

"During the height of the epidemic I fell asleep for a few seconds,
and dreamed that Mors was sweeping down, with extended arms, to
snatch you. By the clock I had not slept quite two minutes, yet the
countenance of Mors was indelibly stamped on my memory, and now I am
transferring it to paper. You are mistaken; it is terrible, but not
hideous!" Beulah laid aside her pencil, and, leaning her elbows on
the table, sat, with her face in her hands, gazing upon the drawing.
It represented the head and shoulders of a winged female; the
countenance was inflexible, grim, and cadaverous. The large, lurid
eyes had an owlish stare; and the outspread pinions, black as night,
made the wan face yet more livid by contrast. The extended hands
were like those of a skeleton.

"What strange fancies you have! It makes the blood curdle in my
veins to look at that awful countenance," said Clara shudderingly.

"I cannot draw it as I saw it in my dream! Cannot do justice to my
ideal Mors!" answered Beulah, in a discontented tone, as she took up
the crayon and retouched the poppies which clustered in the sable
locks.

"For Heaven's sake, do not attempt to render it any more horrible!
Put it away, and finish this lovely Greek face. Oh, how I envy you
your talent for music and drawing! Nature gifted you rarely!"

"No! she merely gave me an intense love of beauty, which constantly
impels me to embody, in melody or coloring, the glorious images
which the contemplation of beauty creates in my soul. Alas! I am not
a genius. If I were I might hope to achieve an immortal renown.
Gladly would I pay its painful and dangerous price!" She placed the
drawing of Mors in her portfolio and began to touch lightly an
unfinished head of Sappho.

"Ah, Clara, how connoisseurs would carp at this portrait of the
'Lesbian Muse'! My guardian, for one, would sneer, superbly."

"Why, pray? It is perfectly beautiful!"

"Because, forsooth, it is no low-browed, swarthy Greek. I have a
penchant for high, broad, expansive foreheads, which are
antagonistic to all the ancient models of beauty. Low foreheads
characterize the antique; but who can fancy 'violet-crowned,
immortal Sappho,'

     "'With that gloriole
       Of ebon hair, on calmed brows,'

other than I have drawn her!" She held up the paper, and smiled
triumphantly.

In truth, it was a face of rare loveliness; of oval outline, with
delicate yet noble features, whose expression seemed the reflex of
the divine afflatus. The uplifted eyes beamed with the radiance of
inspiration; the full, ripe lips were just parted; the curling hair
clustered with child-like simplicity round the classic head; and the
exquisitely formed hands clasped a lyre.

"Beulah, don't you think the eyes are most too wild?" suggested
Clara timidly.

"What? for a poetess! Remember poesy hath madness in it," answered
Beulah, still looking earnestly at her drawing.

"Madness? What do you mean?"

"Just what I say. I believe poetry to be the highest and purest
phase of insanity. Those finely strung, curiously nervous natures
that you always find coupled with poetic endowments, are
characterized by a remarkable activity of the mental organs; and
this continued excitement and premature development of the brain
results in a disease which, under this aspect, the world offers
premiums for. Though I enjoy a fine poem as much as anybody, I
believe, in nine cases out of ten, it is the spasmodic vent of a
highly nervous system, overstrained, diseased. Yes, diseased! If it
does not result in the frantic madness of Lamb, or the final
imbecility of Southey, it is manifested in various other forms, such
as the morbid melancholy of Cowper, the bitter misanthropy of Pope,
the abnormal moodiness and misery of Byron, the unsound and
dangerous theories of Shelley, and the strange, fragmentary nature
of Coleridge."

"Oh, Beulah! what a humiliating theory! The poet placed on an
ignominious level with the nervous hypochondriac! You are the very
last person I should suppose guilty of entertaining such a degraded
estimate of human powers," interposed Clara energetically.

"I know it is customary to rave about Muses, and Parnassus, and
Helicon, and to throw the charitable mantle of 'poetic
idiosyncrasies' over all those dark spots on poetic disks. All
conceivable and inconceivable eccentricities are pardoned, as the
usual concomitants of genius; but, looking into the home lives of
many of the most distinguished poets, I have been painfully
impressed with the truth of my very unpoetic theory. Common sense
has arraigned before her august tribunal some of the socalled
'geniuses' of past ages, and the critical verdict is that much of
the famous 'fine frenzy' was bona-fide frenzy of a sadder nature."

"Do you think that Sappho's frenzy was established by the Leucadian
leap?"

"You confound the poetess with a Sappho who lived later, and threw
herself into the sea from the promontory of Leucate. Doubtless she
too had 'poetic idiosyncrasies'; but her spotless life and, I
believe, natural death, afford no indication of an unsound
intellect. It is rather immaterial, however, to--" Beulah paused
abruptly as a servant entered and approached the table, saying:

"Miss Clara, Dr. Hartwell is in the parlor and wishes to see you."

"To see me!" repeated Clara in surprise, while a rosy tinge stole
into her wan face; "to see me! No! It must be you, Beulah."

"He said Miss Sanders," persisted the servant, and Clara left the
room.

Beulah looked after her with an expression of some surprise; then
continued penciling the chords of Sappho's lyre. A few minutes
elapsed, and Clara returned with flushed cheeks and a smile of
trembling joyousness.

"Beulah, do pin my mantle on straight. I am in such a hurry. Only
think how kind Dr. Hartwell is; he has come to take me out to ride;
says I look too pale, and he thinks a ride will benefit me. That
will do, thank you."

She turned away, but Beulah rose and called out:

"Come back here and get my velvet mantle. It is quite cool, and it
will be a marvelous piece of management to ride out for your health
and come home with a cold. What! no gloves either! Upon my word,
your thoughts must be traveling over the bridge Shinevad."

"Sure enough; I had forgotten my gloves; I will get them as I go
down. Good-by." With the mantle on her arm she hurried away.

Beulah laid aside her drawing materials and prepared for her
customary evening walk. Her countenance was clouded, her lip
unsteady. Her guardian's studied coldness and avoidance pained her,
but it was not this which saddened her now. She felt that Clara was
staking the happiness of her life on the dim hope that her
attachment would be returned. She pitied the delusion and dreaded
the awakening to a true insight into his nature; to a consciousness
of the utter uncongeniality which, she fancied, barred all thought
of such a union. As she walked on these reflections gave place to
others entirely removed from Clara and her guardian; and, on
reaching the grove of pines opposite the asylum, where she had so
often wandered in days gone by, she paced slowly up and down the
"arched aisles," as she was wont to term them. It was a genuine
October afternoon, cool and sunny. The delicious haze of Indian
summer wrapped every distant object in its soft, purple veil; the
dim vistas of the forest ended in misty depths; the very air, in its
dreamy languor, resembled the atmosphere which surrounded

  "The mild-eyed, melancholy lotus-eaters"

of the far East. Through the openings, pale, golden poplars shook
down their dying leaves, and here and there along the ravine crimson
maples gleamed against the background of dark green pines. In every
direction bright-colored leaves, painted with "autumnal hectic,"
strewed the bier of the declining year. Beulah sat down on a tuft of
moss, and gathered clusters of golden-rod and purple and white
asters. She loved these wild wood-flowers much more than gaudy
exotics or rare hothouse plants. They linked her with the days of
her childhood, and now each graceful spray of golden-rod seemed a
wand of memory calling up bygone joys, griefs, and fancies. Ah, what
a hallowing glory invests our past, beckoning us back to the haunts
of the olden time! The paths our childish feet trod seem all angel-
guarded and thornless; the songs we sang then sweep the harp of
memory, making magical melody; the words carelessly spoken now
breathe a solemn, mysterious import; and faces that early went down
to the tomb smile on us still with unchanged tenderness. Aye, the
past, the long past, is all fairyland. Where our little feet were
bruised we now see only springing flowers; where childish lips drank
from some Marab verdure and garlands woo us back. Over the rustling
leaves a tiny form glided to Beulah's side; a pure infantine face
with golden curls looked up at her, and a lisping voice of unearthly
sweetness whispered in the autumn air. Here she had often brought
Lilly and filled her baby fingers with asters and goldenrod; and
gathered bright scarlet leaves to please her childish fancy. Bitter
waves had broken over her head since then; shadows had gathered
about her heart. Oh, how far off were the early years! How changed
she was; how different life and the world seemed to her now! The
flowery meadows were behind her, with the vestibule of girlhood, and
now she was a woman, with no ties to link her with any human being;
alone, and dependent only on herself. Verily she might have
exclaimed in the mournful words of Lamb:

 "All, all are gone, the old familiar faces."

She sat looking at the wild flowers in her hand; a sad, dreamy light
filled the clear gray eyes, and now and then her brow was plowed by
some troubled thought. The countenance told of a mind perplexed and
questioning. The "cloud no bigger than a man's hand" had crept up
from the horizon of faith, and now darkened her sky; but she would
not see the gathering gloom; shut her eyes resolutely to the coming
storm. As the cool October wind stirred the leaves at her feet, and
the scarlet and gold cloud-flakes faded in the west, she rose and
walked slowly homeward. She was too deeply pondering her speculative
doubts to notice Dr. Hartwell's buggy whirling along the street; did
not see his head extended, and his cold, searching glance; and of
course he believed the blindness intentional and credited it to
pique or anger. On reaching home she endeavored by singing a
favorite hymn to divert the current of her thoughts, but the shadows
were growing tenacious and would not be banished so easily. "If a
man die shall he live again?" seemed echoing on the autumn wind. She
took up her Bible and read several chapters, which she fancied would
uncloud her mind; but in vain. Restlessly she began to pace the
floor; the lamplight gleamed on a pale, troubled face. After a time
the door opened and Clara came in. She took a seat without speaking,
for she had learned to read Beulah's countenance, and saw at a
glance that she was abstracted and in no mood for conversation. When
the tea bell rang Beulah stopped suddenly in the middle of the room.

"What is the matter?" asked Clara.

"I feel as if I needed a cup of coffee, that is all. Will you join
me?"

"No; and if you take it you will not be able to close your eyes."

"Did you have a pleasant ride?" said Beulah, laying her hand on her
companion's shoulder and looking gravely down into the sweet face,
which wore an expression she had never seen there before.

"Oh, I shall never forget it! never!" murmured Clara.

"I am glad you enjoyed it; very glad. I wish the color would come
back to your cheeks. Riding is better for you now than walking." She
stooped down and pressed her lips to the wan cheek as she spoke.

"Did you walk this evening, after I left you?"

"Yes."

"What makes you look so grave?"

"A great many causes--you among the number."

"What have I done?"

"You are not so strong as I should like to see you. You have a sort
of spiritual look that I don't at all fancy."

"I dare say I shall soon be well again." This was said with an
effort, and a sigh quickly followed.

Beulah rang the bell for a cup of coffee, and, taking down a book,
drew her chair near the lamp.

"What! studying already?" cried Clara impatiently.

"And why not? Life is short at best, and rarely allows time to
master all departments of knowledge. Why should I not seize every
spare moment?"

"Oh, Beulah! though you are so much younger, you awe me. I told your
guardian to-day that you were studying yourself into a mere shadow.
He smiled, and said you were too willful to be advised. You talk to
me about not looking well! You never have had any color, and lately
you have grown very thin and hollow-eyed. I asked the doctor if he
did not think you were looking ill, and he said that you had changed
very much since the summer. Beulah, for my sake, please don't pore
over your books so incessantly." She took Beulah's hand gently in
both hers.

"Want of color is as constitutional with me as the shape of my nose.
I have always been pale, and study has no connection with it. Make
yourself perfectly easy on my account."

"You are very willful, as your guardian says!" cried Clara
impatiently.

"Yes; that is like my sallow complexion--constitutional," answered
Beulah, laughing, and opening a volume of Carlyle as she spoke.

"Oh, Beulah, I don't know what will become of you!" Tears sprang
into Clara's eyes.

"Do not be at all uneasy, my dear, dove-eyed Clara. I can take care
of myself."



CHAPTER XIX.


It was the middle of November, and the absentees who had spent their
summer at the North were all at home again. Among these were Mrs.
Asbury and her two daughters; and only a few days after their return
they called to see Beulah. She found them polished, cultivated, and
agreeable; and when, at parting, the mother kindly pressed her hand
and cordially invited her to visit them often and sociably, she felt
irresistibly drawn toward her, and promised to do so. Ere long there
came a friendly note, requesting her to spend the evening with them;
and thus, before she had known them many weeks, Beulah found herself
established on the familiar footing of an old friend. Universally
esteemed and respected, Dr. Asbury's society was sought by the most
refined circle of the city, and his house was a favorite resort for
the intellectual men and women of the community. Occupying an
enviable position in his profession, he still found leisure to
devote much of his attention to strictly literary topics, and the
honest frankness and cordiality of his manners, blended with the
instructive tone of his conversation, rendered him a general
favorite. Mrs. Asbury merited the elevated position which she so
ably filled as the wife of such a man. While due attention was given
to the education and rearing of her daughters, she admirably
discharged the claims of society, and, by a consistent adherence to
the principles of the religion she professed, checked by every means
within her power the frivolous excesses and dangerous extremes which
prevailed throughout the fashionable circles in which she moved.
Zealously, yet unostentatiously, she exerted herself in behalf of
the various charitable institutions organized to ameliorate the
sufferings of the poor in their midst; and while as a Christian she
conformed to the outward observances of her church, she faithfully
inculcated and practiced at home the pure precepts of a religion
whose effects should be the proper regulation of the heart and
charity toward the world. Her parlors were not the favorite
rendezvous where gossips met to retail slander. Refined, dignified,
gentle, and hospitable, she was a woman too rarely, alas! met with,
in so-called fashionable circles. Her husband's reputation secured
them the acquaintance of all distinguished strangers, and made their
house a great center of attraction. Beulah fully enjoyed and
appreciated the friendship thus tendered her, and soon looked upon
Dr. Asbury and his noble wife as counselors to whom in any emergency
she could unhesitatingly apply. They based their position in society
on their own worth, not the extrinsic appendages of wealth and
fashion, and readily acknowledged the claims of all who (however
humble their abode or avocation) proved themselves worthy of respect
and esteem. In their intercourse with the young teacher there was an
utter absence of that contemptible supercilious condescension which
always characterizes an ignorant and parvenu aristocracy. They
treated her as an equal in intrinsic worth, and prized her as a
friend. Helen Asbury was older than Beulah and Georgia somewhat
younger. They were sweet-tempered, gay girls, lacking their parent's
intellectual traits, but sufficiently well-informed and cultivated
to constitute them agreeable companions. Of their father's extensive
library they expressed themselves rather afraid, and frequently
bantered Beulah about the grave books she often selected from it.
Beulah found her school duties far less irksome than she had
expected, for she loved children, and soon became interested in the
individual members of her classes. From eight o'clock until three
she was closely occupied; then the labors of the day were over, and
she spent her evenings much as she had been wont ere the opening of
the session. Thus November glided quickly away, and the first of
December greeted her ere she dreamed of its approach. The Grahams
had not returned, though daily expected; and, notwithstanding two
months had elapsed without Eugene's writing, she looked forward with
intense pleasure to his expected arrival. There was one source of
constant pain for her in Dr. Hartwell's continued and complete
estrangement. Except a cold, formal bow in passing there was no
intercourse whatever; and she sorrowed bitterly over this seeming
indifference in one to whom she owed so much and was so warmly
attached. Remotely connected with this cause of disquiet was the
painful change in Clara. Like a lily suddenly transplanted to some
arid spot, she had seemed to droop since the week of her ride.
Gentle, but hopeless and depressed, she went, day after day, to her
duties at Madam St. Cymon's school, and returned at night wearied,
silent, and wan. Her step grew more feeble, her face thinner and
paler. Often Beulah gave up her music and books, and devoted the
evenings to entertaining and interesting her; but there was a
constraint and reserve about her which could not be removed.

One evening, on returning from a walk with Helen Asbury, Beulah ran
into her friend's room with a cluster of flowers. Clara sat by the
fire, with a piece of needlework in her hand; she looked listless
and sad. Beulah threw the bright golden and crimson chrysanthemums
in her lap, and, stooping down, kissed her warmly, saying:

"How is your troublesome head? Here is a flowery cure for you."

"My head does not ache quite so badly. Where did you find these
beautiful chrysanthemums?" answered Clara languidly.

"I stopped to get a piece of music from Georgia, and Helen cut them
for me. Oh, what blessed things flowers are! They have been well
styled, 'God's undertones of encouragement to the children of
earth.'"

She was standing on the hearth, warming her fingers. Clara looked up
at the dark, clear eye and delicate, fixed lips before her, and
sighed involuntarily. Beulah knelt on the carpet, and, throwing one
arm around her companion, said earnestly:

"My dear Clara, what saddens you to-night? Can't you tell me?"

A hasty knock at the door gave no time for an answer. A servant
looked in.

"Is Miss Beulah Benton here? There is a gentleman in the parlor to
see her; here is the card."

Beulah still knelt on the floor and held out her hand indifferently.
The card was given, and she sprang up with a cry of joy.

"Oh, it is Eugene!"

At the door of the parlor she paused and pressed her hand tightly to
her bounding heart. A tall form stood before the grate, and a glance
discovered to her a dark mustache and heavy beard; still it must be
Eugene, and, extending her arms unconsciously, she exclaimed:

"Eugene! Eugene! Have you come at last?"

He started, looked up, and hastened toward her. Her arms suddenly
dropped to her side, and only their hands met in a firm, tight
clasp. For a moment they gazed at each other in silence, each noting
the changes which time had wrought. Then he said slowly:

"I should not have known you, Beulah. You have altered
surprisingly." His eyes wandered wonderingly over her features. She
was pale and breathless; her lips trembled violently, and there was
a strange gleam in her large, eager eyes. She did not reply, but
stood looking up intently into his handsome face. Then she shivered;
the long, black lashes drooped; her white fingers relaxed their
clasp of his, and she sat down on the sofa near. Ah! her womanly
intuitions, infallible as Ithuriel's spear, told her that he was no
longer the Eugene she had loved so devotedly. An iron hand seemed to
clutch her heart, and again a shudder crept over her as he seated
himself beside her, saying:

"I am very much pained to find you here. I am just from Dr.
Hartwell's, where I expected to see you."

He paused, for something about her face rather disconcerted him, and
he took her hand again in his.

"How could you expect to find me there, after reading my last
letter?"

"I still hoped that your good sense would prevent your taking such
an extraordinary step."

She smiled icily, and answered:

"Is it so extraordinary, then, that I should desire to maintain my
self-respect?"

"It would not have been compromised by remaining where you were."

"I should scorn myself were I willing to live idly on the bounty of
one upon whom I have no claim."

"You are morbidly fastidious, Beulah."

Her eyes flashed, and, snatching her hand from his, she asked, with
curling lips: "Eugene, if I prefer to teach for a support, why
should you object?"

"Simply because you are unnecessarily lowering yourself in the
estimation of the community. You will find that the circle which a
residence under Dr. Hartwell's roof gave you the entree of, will
look down with contempt upon a subordinate teacher in a public
school--"

"Then, thank Heaven, I am forever shut out from that circle! Is my
merit to be gauged by the cost of my clothes or the number of
fashionable parties I attend, think you?"

"Assuredly, Beulah, the things you value so lightly are the
standards of worth and gentility in the community you live in, as
you will unfortunately find."

She looked at him steadily, with grief, and scorn, and wonder in her
deep, searching eyes, as she exclaimed:

"Oh, Eugene! what has changed you so, since the bygone years when in
the asylum we talked of the future? of laboring, conquering, and
earning homes for ourselves! Oh, has the foul atmosphere of foreign
lands extinguished all your selfrespect? Do you come back sordid and
sycophantic, and the slave of opinions you would once have utterly
detested? Have you narrowed your soul and bowed down before the
miserable standard which every genuine, manly spirit must loathe?
Oh! has it come to this? Has it come to this?" Her voice was broken
and bitter, scalding tears of shame and grief gushed over her
cheeks.

"This fierce recrimination and unmerited tirade is not exactly the
welcome I was prepared to expect," returned Eugene haughtily; and,
rising, he took his hat from the table. She rose also, but made no
effort to detain him, and leaned her head against the mantelpiece.
He watched her a moment, then approached and put his hand on her
shoulder.

"Beulah, as a man I see the world and its relations in a far
different light from that in which I viewed it while a boy."

"It is utterly superfluous to tell me so!" replied Beulah bitterly.

"I grapple with realities now, and am forced to admit the expediency
of prudent policy. You refuse to see things in their actual
existence and prefer toying with romantic dreams. Beulah, I have
awakened from these since we parted."

She put up her hand deprecatingly, and answered:

"Then let me dream on! let me dream on!"

"Beulah, I have been sadly mistaken in my estimate of your
character. I could not have believed there was so much fierce
obstinacy, so much stubborn pride, in your nature."

She instantly lifted her head, and their eyes met. Other days came
back to both; early confidence, mutual love and dependence. For a
moment his nobler impulses prevailed, and, with an unsteady lip, he
passed his arm quickly around her. But she drew coldly back, and
said:

"It seems we are mutually disappointed in each other. I regret that
the discharge of my duty should so far conflict with your opinions
and standard of propriety as to alienate us so completely as it
seems likely to do. All my life I have looked to you for guidance
and counsel; but to-night you have shaken my trust, and henceforth I
must depend upon my own heart to support me in my work. Oh, Eugene!
friend of my childhood! beware lest you sink yourself in your own
estimation! Oh, for days, and months, and years I have pictured the
hour of your return, little dreaming that it would prove one of the
saddest of my life! I have always looked up to you. Oh, Eugene!
Eugene! you are not what you were! Do not! oh, do not make me pity
you! That would kill me!" She covered her face with her hands, and
shuddered convulsively.

"I am not so changed as you think me," returned Eugene proudly.

"Then, in earlier years I was miserably deceived in your character.
For the sake of wealth, and what the world calls 'position,' you
have sold yourself. In lieu of his gold and influence Mr. Graham has
your will, your conscience. Ah, Eugene! how can you bear to be a
mere tool in his hands?"

"Beulah, your language, your insinuations are unpardonable! By
Heaven, no one but yourself might utter them, and not even you can
do so with impunity! If you choose to suffer your foolish pride and
childish whims to debar you from the enviable position in society
which Dr. Hartwell would gladly confer on you--why, you have only
yourself to censure. But my situation in Mr. Graham's family has
long been established. He has ever regarded me as his son, treated
me as such, and as such I feel bound to be guided by him in my
choice of a profession. Beulah, I have loved you well, but such
another exhibition of scorn and bitterness will indeed alienate us.
Since you have set aside my views and counsel in the matter of
teaching, I shall not again refer to it, I promise you. I have no
longer the wish to control your actions, even had I the power. But,
remember, since the hour you stood beside your father's grave,
leaning on me, I have been constantly your friend. My expostulations
were for what I considered your good. Beulah, I am still, to you,
the Eugene of other days. It will be your own fault if the sanctity
of our friendship is not maintained."

"It shall not be my fault, Eugene." She hastily held out her hand.
He clasped it in his, and, as if dismissing the topics which had
proved so stormy, drew her to a seat, and said composedly:

"Come, tell me what you have been doing with yourself these long
five years, which have changed you so. I have heard already of your
heroism in nursing the sick, during the late awful season of
pestilence and death."

For an hour they talked on indifferent themes, each feeling that the
other was veiling the true impulses of the heart, and finally Eugene
rose to go.

"How is Cornelia's health now?" asked Beulah, as they stood up
before the fire.

"About the same. She never complains, but does not look like
herself. Apropos! she intrusted a note to me, for you, which I had
quite forgotten. Here it is. Miss Dupres is with her for the winter;
at least, a part of it. Cornelia will come and see you in a day or
two, she requested me to say; and I do hope, Beulah, that you will
visit her often; she has taken a great fancy to you."

"How long since?" answered Beulah, with an incredulous smile.

"Since she met you at a concert, I believe. By the way, we are very
musical at our house, and promise ourselves some delightful evenings
this winter. You must hear Antoinette Dupres sing; she is equal to
the best prima-donna of Italy. Do you practice much?"

"Yes."

"Well, I must go. When shall I see you again?"

"Whenever you feel disposed to come; and I hope that will be often.
Eugene, you were a poor correspondent; see that you prove a better
visitor."

"Yes, I will. I have a thousand things to say, but scarcely know
where to commence. You are always at home in the evenings, I
suppose?"

"Yes: except occasionally when I am with the Asburys."

"Do you see much of them?"

"Yes; a good deal."

"I am glad to hear it; they move in the very first circle. Now,
Beulah, don't be offended if I ask what is the matter with Dr.
Hartwell? How did you displease him?"

"Just as I displeased you; by deciding to teach. Eugene, it pains me
very much that he should treat me as he does, but it is utterly out
of my power to rectify the evil."

"He told me that he knew nothing of your movements or plans. I wish,
for your sake, you could be reconciled."

"We will be some day. I must wait patiently," said she, with a sigh.

"Beulah, I don't like that troubled look about your mouth. What is
the matter? Can I in any way remove it? It is connected with me,
even remotely? My dear Beulah, do not shrink from me."

"Nothing is the matter that you can rectify," said she gravely.

"Something is the matter, then, which I may not know?"

"Yes."

"And you will not trust me?"

"It is not a question of trust, Eugene."

"You think I cannot help you?"

"You cannot help me, I am sure." "Well, I will see you again to-
morrow; till then, good-by." They shook hands, and she went back to
her own room. Cornelia's note contained an invitation to spend the
next evening with them; she would call as soon as possible. She put
it aside, and, throwing her arms on the mantelpiece, bowed her head
upon them. This, then, was the hour which, for five years, she had
anticipated as an occasion of unmixed delight. She was not weeping;
no, the eyes were dry and the lips firmly fixed. She was thinking of
the handsome face which a little while before was beside her;
thinking, with keen agony, of footprints there which she had never
dreamed of seeing; they were very slight, yet unmistakable--the fell
signet of dissipation. Above all, she read it in the eyes, which
once looked so fearlessly into hers. She knew he did not imagine for
an instant that she suspected it; and of all the bitter cups which
eighteen years had proffered, this was by far the blackest. It was
like a hideous dream, and she groaned, and passed her hand over her
brow, as if to sweep it all away. Poor Beulah! the idol of her
girlhood fell from its pedestal and lay in crumbling ruins at her
feet. In this hour of reunion she saw clearly into her own heart;
she did not love him, save as a friend, as a brother. She was forced
to perceive her own superiority; could she love a man whom she did
not revere? Verily, she felt now that she did not love Eugene. There
was a feeling of contempt for his weakness, yet she could not bear
to see him other than she had hoped. How utterly he had disappointed
her? Could it be possible that he had fallen so low as to dissipate
habitually? This she would not believe; he was still too noble for
such a disgraceful course. She felt a soft touch on her shoulder,
and raised her sad, tearless face. Clara, with her ethereal,
spiritual countenance, stood on the hearth. "Do I disturb you?" said
she timidly.

"No; I am glad you came. I was listening to cold, bitter, bitter
thoughts. Sit down, Clara; you look fatigued."

"Oh, Beulah! I am weary in body and spirit; I have no energy; my
very existence is a burden to me."

"Clara, it is weak to talk so. Rouse yourself, and fulfill the
destiny for which you were created."

"I have no destiny but that of loneliness and misery."

"Our situations are similar, yet I never repine as you do."

"You have not the same cause. You are self-reliant; need no society
to conduce to your happiness; your heart is bound up in your books."

"Where yours had better have been," answered Beulah. She walked
across the floor several times, then said impressively, as she threw
her arm round Clara's waist:

"Crush it; crush it; if you crush your heart in the effort."

A moan escaped Clara's lips, and she hid her face against her
friend's shoulder.

"I have known it since the night of your grandfather's death. If you
want to be happy and useful, crush it out of your heart."

"I have tried, and cannot."

"Oh, but you can! I tell you there is nothing a woman cannot do,
provided she puts on the armor of duty and unsheathes the sword of a
strong, unbending will. Of course, you can do it, if you will."

"Wait till you feel as I do, Beulah, and it will not seem so light a
task."

"That will never happen. If I live till the next geological period I
never shall love anybody as insanely as you love. Why, Clara, don't
you see that you are wrecking your happiness? What strange
infatuation has seized you?"

"I know now that it is perfectly hopeless," said Clara calmly.

"You might have known it from the first."

"No; it is but recently that the barrier has risen."

"What barrier?" asked Beulah curiously.

"For Heaven's sake, Beulah, do not mock me! You know too well what
separates us."

"Yes; utter uncongeniality."

Clara raised her head, looked into the honest face before her, and
answered:

"If that were all, I could yet hope to merit his love; but you know
that is not so. You must know that he has no love to bestow."

Beulah's face seemed instantly steeled. A grayish hue crept over it;
and, drawing her slender form to its full height, she replied, with
haughty coldness:

"What do you mean? I can only conjecture."

"Beulah, you know he loves you!" cried Clara, with a strangely quiet
smile.

"Clara Sanders, never say that again as long as you live; for there
is not the shadow of truth in it."

"Ah, I would not believe it till it was forced upon me. The heart
bars itself a long time to painful truths! I have looked at you, and
wondered whether you could be ignorant of what I saw so clearly. I
believe you are honest in what you say. I know that you are; but it
is nevertheless true. I saw it the evening I went to ride. He loves
you, whether you see it or not. And, moreover, the world has begun
to join your names. I have heard, more than once, that he educated
you with the intention of marrying you; and recently it has been
rumored that the marriage would take place very soon. Do not be hurt
with me, Beulah! I think it is right that you should know all this."

"It is utterly false from beginning to end! He never had such a
thought! never! never!" cried Beulah, striking her clenched hand
heavily on the table.

"Why, then, was he so anxious to prevent your teaching?"

"Because he is generous and kind, and fancied it was a life of
hardship, which I could escape by accepting his offer to adopt me.
Your supposition is perfectly ridiculous. He is double my age. A
stern, taciturn man. What could possibly attract him to one whom he
looks upon as a mere child? And, moreover, he is a worshiper of
beauty! Now, it is an indisputable fact that I am anything but a
beauty! Oh, the idea is absurd beyond all degree. Never mention it
to me again. I tell you solemnly, Clara, your jealous fancy has run
away with your common sense."

A sad, incredulous smile flitted over Clara's face; but she made no
reply.

"Clara, rouse yourself from this weak dream. Oh, where is your
pride--your womanly pride--your self-respect? Is your life to be
aimless and dreary because of an unrequited attachment? Shake it
off! Rise above it! Destroy it! Oh, it makes the blood tingle in my
veins to think of your wasting your energies and hopes in love for
one who is so utterly indifferent to you. Much as I love you, Clara,
had I the power to make you his wife to-morrow, I would rather see
you borne to your grave. You know nothing of his fitful, moody
nature; his tyrannical will. You could not be happy with him; you
would see how utterly unsuited you are."

"Are you acquainted with the circumstances of his early life and
ill-fated marriage?" asked Clara, in a low, passionless tone.

"No; he never alluded to his marriage in any way. Long as I lived in
his house there was no mention of his wife's name, and I should
never have known of his marriage but from his sister."

"It was a most unhappy marriage," said Clara musingly.

"So I conjectured from his studious avoidance of all allusion to
it."

"His wife was very, very beautiful; I saw her once when I was a
child," continued Clara.

"Of course she must have been, for he could not love one who was
not."

"She lived but a few months; yet even in that short time they had
become utterly estranged, and she died of a broken heart. There is
some mystery connected with it; they were separated."

"Separated!" cried Beulah in amazement.

"Yes, separated; she died in New Orleans, I believe."

"And yet you profess to love him! A man who broke his wife's heart,"
said Beulah, with a touch of scorn.

"No; you do his noble nature injustice. He is incapable of such a
course. Even a censorious world acquitted him of unkindness."

"And heaped contumely on the unhappy victim, eh?" rejoined Beulah.

"Her conduct was not irreproachable, it has been whispered."

"Aye, whispered by slanderous tongues! Not openly avowed, to admit
of denial and refutation! I wonder the curse of Gomorrah does not
descend on this gossiping, libelous community."

"No one seems to know anything definite about the affair; though I
have often heard it commented upon and wondered over."

"Clara, let it be buried henceforth. Neither you nor I have any
right to discuss and censure what neither of us know anything about.
Dr. Hartwell has been my best and truest friend. I love and honor
him; his faults are his own, and only his Maker has the right to
balance his actions. Once for all, let the subject drop." Beulah
compressed her lips with an expression which her companion very well
understood. Soon after the latter withdrew, and, leaning her arms on
the table near her, Beulah sank into a reverie which was far from
pleasant. Dismissing the unsatisfactory theme of her guardian's
idiosyncrasies, her thoughts immediately reverted to Eugene, and the
revolution which five years had effected in his character.

In the afternoon of the following day she was engaged with her
drawing, when a succession of quick raps at her door forced an
impatient "Come in" from her lips. The door opened, and she rose
involuntarily as the queenly form of Cornelia Graham stood before
her. With a slow, stately tread she approached, and, extending her
hand, said unconcernedly:

"I have waived ceremony, you see, and come up to your room."

"How are you?" said Beulah, as they shook hands and seated
themselves.

"Just as usual. How did you contrive to escape the plague?"

"By resolving not to have it, I believe."

"You have a wan, sickly look, I think."

"So have you, I am sure. I hoped that you would come home strong and
well." Beulah noted, with a feeling of compassion, the thin, hollow
cheeks and sunken, yet burning, eyes before her. Cornelia bit her
lip, and asked haughtily:

"Who told you that I was not well?"

"Your countenance would tell me, if I had never heard it from
others," replied Beulah, with an instantaneous recollection of her
guardian's warning.

"Did you receive my note yesterday?"

"Yes. I am obliged by your invitation, but cannot accept it."

"So I supposed, and therefore came to make sure of you. You are too
proud to come until all the family call upon you, eh?"

"No; only people who consider themselves inferior are on the watch
for slights, and scrupulously exact the minutest requirements of
etiquette. On the plane of equality these barriers melt away."

As Beulah spoke she looked steadily into the searching, black eyes,
which seemed striving to read her soul. An expression of pleasure
lighted the sallow face, and the haughty lines about the beautiful
mouth melted into a half-smile.

"Then you have not forgiven my rudeness during early schooldays?"

"I had nothing to forgive. I had forgotten the affair until you
spoke."

"Then, why will you not come?"

"For reasons which would not be removed by a recapitulation."

"And you positively will not come?"

"Not this evening. Another time I certainly will come with
pleasure."

"Say to-morrow, then."

"To-morrow I shall be engaged."

"Where? Excuse my pertinacity."

"At Dr. Asbury's. I have promised to practice some duets with
Helen."

"Do you play well, Beulah? Are you a good musician?"

"Yes."

Cornelia mused a moment, and then said slowly, as if watching the
effect of her question:

"You have seen Eugene, of course?"

"Yes."

"He has changed very much in his appearance, has he not?"

"More than I was prepared to expect."

"He is to be a merchant, like my father."

"So he wrote me."

"You endeavored to dissuade him from complying with my father's
wishes, did you not?"

"Yes; most earnestly," answered Beulah gravely.

"Beulah Benton, I like you! You are honest indeed. At last I find
one who is." With a sudden impulse she laid her white, jeweled hand
on Beulah's.

"Is honesty, or, rather, candor, so very rare, Cornelia?"

"Come out from your 'loop-hole of retreat,' into the world, and you
can easily answer your own question."

"You seem to have looked on human nature through misanthropic
lenses."

"Yes; I bought a pair of spectacles, for which I paid a most
exorbitant price! but they were labeled 'experience'!" She smiled
frigidly.

"You do not seem to have enjoyed your tour particularly."

"Yes, I did; but one is glad to rest sometimes. I may yet prove a
second Bayard Taylor, notwithstanding. I should like you for a
companion. You would not sicken me with stereotyped nonsense."

Her delicate fingers folded themselves about Beulah's, who could not
bring herself to withdraw her hand.

"And, sure enough, you would not be adopted? Do you mean to adhere
to your determination, and maintain yourself by teaching?"

"I do."

"And I admire you for it! Beulah, you must get over your dislike to
me."

"I do not dislike you, Cornelia."

"Thank you for your negative preference," returned Cornelia, rather
amused at her companion's straightforward manner. Then, with a
sudden contraction of her brow, she added:

"I am not so bearish as they give me credit for?"

"I never heard you called so."

"Ah! that is because you do not enter the enchanted circle of 'our
clique.' During morning calls I am flattered, cajoled, and fawned
upon. Their carriages are not out of hearing before my friends and
admirers, like hungry harpies, pounce upon my character, manners,
and appearance, with most laudable zest and activity. Wait till you
have been initiated into my coterie of fashionable friends! Why, the
battle of Marengo was a farce in comparison with the havoc they can
effect in the space of a morning among the characters of their
select visiting list! What a precious age of backbiting we city
belles live in!" She spoke with an air of intolerable scorn.

"As a prominent member of this circle, why do you not attempt to
rectify this spreading evil? You might effect lasting good."

"I am no Hercules, to turn the Peneus of reform through the Augean
realms of society," answered Cornelia, with an impatient gesture;
and, rising, she drew on her glove. Beulah looked up at her, and
pitied the joyless, cynical nature, which gave an almost repulsively
austere expression to the regular, faultless features.

"Beulah, will you come on Saturday morning and spend an hour or so
with me?"

"No; I have a music lesson to give; but if you will be at home in
the afternoon, I will come with pleasure."

"I shall expect you, then. You were drawing when I came in; are you
fond of it?" As she spoke she took up a piece which was nearly
completed.

"Yes; but you will find my sketches very crude."

"Who taught you to draw?"

"I have had several teachers. All rather indifferent, however."

"Where did you see a St. Cecilia? There is too much breadth of brow
here," continued Cornelia, with a curious glance at the young
teacher.

"Yes; I deviated from the original intentionally. I copied it from a
collection of heads which Georgia Asbury brought from the North."

"I have a number of choice paintings, which I selected in Europe.
Any that you may fancy are at your service for models."

"Thank you. I shall be glad to avail myself of the privilege."

"Good-by. You will come Saturday?"

"Yes; if nothing occurs to prevent, I will come in the afternoon."
Beulah pressed her offered hand, and saw her descend the steps with
a feeling of pity which she could not exactly analyze. Passing by
the window, she glanced down, and paused to look upon an elegant
carriage standing before the door. The day was cold, but the top was
thrown back, and on one of the cushions sat, or, rather, reclined, a
richly dressed and very beautiful girl. As Beulah leaned out to
examine the lovely stranger more closely Cornelia appeared. The
driver opened the low door, and, as Cornelia stepped in, the young
lady, who was Miss Dupres, of course, ejaculated rather peevishly:

"You stayed an age!"

"Drive down the Bay Road, Wilson," was Cornelia's reply, and, as she
folded her rich cloak about her, the carriage was whirled away.

Beulah went back to the fire, warmed her fingers, and resumed her
drawing, thinking that she would not willingly change places with
the petted child of wealth and luxury.



CHAPTER XX.


It was a dreary Saturday afternoon, but Beulah wrapped a warm shawl
about her, and set out to pay the promised visit. The air was damp
and raw, and leaden, marbled clouds hung in the sky. Mr. Graham's
house was situated in the fashionable part of the city, near Mr.
Grayson's residence, and, as Beulah passed the crouching lions, she
quickened her steps, to escape the painful reminiscences which they
recalled. In answer to her ring, the servant ushered her into the
parlors, furnished with almost Oriental magnificence, and was
retiring, when she gave her name.

"You are Miss Benton, then. I have orders to show you up at once to
Miss Cornelia's room. She has seen no visitors today. This way,
miss, if you please."

He led the way, up an easy, spiral flight of steps, to the door of a
room, which he threw open. Cornelia was sitting in a large cushioned
chair by the fire, with a papier-mache writing-desk beside her,
covered with letters. There was a bright fire in the grate, and the
ruddy haze, together with the reflection from the crimson damask
curtains, gave a dim, luxurious aspect to the chamber, which in
every respect betokened the fastidious taste of a petted invalid.
Clad in a dark silk robe-de-chambre, with her cheek pressed against
the blue velvet lining of the chair, Cornelia's face wore a sickly,
sallow hue, which was rendered more palpable by her black,
glittering eyes and jetty hair. She eagerly held out her hand, and a
smile of sincere pleasure parted the lips, which a paroxysm of pain
seemed to have just compressed.

"It is such a gloomy day I feared you would not come. Take off your
bonnet and shawl."

"It is not so gloomy out as you imagine," said Beulah.

"What? not, with dull clouds, and a stiff, raw, northeaster? I
looked out of the window a while since, and the bay looked just as I
have seen the North Sea, gray and cold. Why don't you take off your
bonnet?"

"Because I can only sit with you a short time," answered Beulah,
resisting the attempt made to take her shawl.

"Why can't you spend the evening?" said Cornelia, frowning.

"I promised not to remain more than an hour."

"Promised whom?"

"Clara Sanders. She is sick; unable to leave her room; and is lonely
when I am away."

"My case is analogous; so I will put myself on the charity list for
once. I have not been downstairs for two days."

"But you have everything to interest you even here," returned
Beulah, glancing around at the numerous paintings and engravings
which were suspended on all sides, while ivory, marble, and bronze
statuettes were scattered in profusion about the room. Cornelia
followed her glance, and asked, with a joyless smile:

"Do you suppose those bits of stone and canvas satisfy me?"

"Certainly. 'A thing of beauty should be a joy forever.' With all
these, and your library, surely you are never lonely."

"Pshaw! they tire me immensely. Sometimes the cramped positions and
unwinking eyes of that 'Holy Family' there over the chimneypiece
make me perfectly nervous."

"You must be morbidly sensitive at such times."

"Why? Do you never feel restless and dissatisfied without any
adequate reason?"

"No, never."

"And yet you have few sources of pleasure," said Cornelia, in a
musing tone, as her eyes wandered over her visitor's plain attire.

"No! my sources of enjoyment are as varied and extended as the
universe."

"I should like you to map them. Shut up all day with a parcel of
rude, stupid children, and released only to be caged again in a
small room in a second-rate boarding house. Really, I should fancy
they were limited indeed."

"No; I enjoy my brisk walk to school in the morning; the children
are neither so dull nor so bearish as you seem to imagine. I am
attached to many of them, and do not feel the day to be very long.
At three I hurry home, get my dinner, practice, and draw or sew till
the shadows begin to dim my eyes; then I walk until the lamps are
lighted, find numberless things to interest me, even in a winter's
walk, and go back to my room refreshed and eager to get to my books.
Once seated with them, what portion of the earth is there that I may
not visit, from the crystal Arctic temples of Odin and Thor to the
groves of Abyssinia? In this age of travel and cheap books I can sit
in my room in the third story, and, by my lamplight, see all, and
immeasurably more, than you, who have been traveling for eighteen
months. Wherever I go I find sources of enjoyment; even the pictures
in bookstores give me pleasure and contribute food for thought; and
when, as now, I am surrounded by all that wealth can collect, I
admire, and enjoy the beauty and elegance as much as if I owned it
all. So you see that my enjoyments are as varied as the universe
itself."

"Eureka!" murmured Cornelia, eying her companion curiously, "Eureka!
you shall have the tallest case in the British Museum, or Barnum's,
just as your national antipathies may incline you."

"What impresses you as so singular in my mode of life?" asked Beulah
rather dryly.

"Your philosophic contentment, which I believe you are too candid to
counterfeit. Your easy solution of that great human riddle given the
world, to find happiness. The Athenian and Alexandrian schools
dwindle into nothingness. Commend me to your 'categories,' O Queen
of Philosophy." She withdrew her searching eyes, and fixed them
moodily on the fire, twirling the tassel of her robe as she mused.

"You are most egregiously mistaken, Cornelia, if you have been led
to suppose, from what I said a moment since, that I am never
troubled about anything. I merely referred to enjoyments derived
from various sources, open alike to rich and poor. There are Marahs
hidden in every path; no matter whether the draught is taken in
jeweled goblets or unpolished gourds."

"Sometimes, then, you are 'blued' most dismally, like the balance of
unphilosophic men and women, eh?"

"Occasionally my mind is very much perplexed and disturbed; not
exactly 'blued,' as you express it, but dimmed, clouded."

"What clouds it? Will you tell me?" said Cornelia eagerly.

"The struggle to see that which I suppose it never was intended I
should see."

"I don't understand you," said Cornelia, knitting her brows.

"Nor would you even were I to particularize."

"Perhaps I am not so very obtuse as you fancy."

"At any rate, I shall not enter into detail," answered Beulah,
smiling quietly at the effect of her words.

"Do you ever weary of your books?" Cornelia leaned forward, and bent
a long searching look on her guest's countenance as she spoke.

"Not of my books; but sometimes, nay, frequently, of the thoughts
they excite."

"A distinction without a difference," said the invalid coldly.

"A true distinction, nevertheless," maintained Beulah.

"Be good enough to explain it then."

"For instance, I read Carlyle for hours, without the slightest
sensation of weariness. Midnight forces me to lay the book
reluctantly aside, and then the myriad conjectures and inquiries
which I am conscious of, as arising from those same pages, weary me
beyond all degrees of endurance."

"And these conjectures cloud your mind?" said Cornelia, with a half-
smile breaking over her face.

"I did not say so; I merely gave it as an illustration of what you
professed not to understand."

"I see your citadel of reserve and mistrust cannot be carried by
storm," answered Cornelia petulantly.

Before Beulah could reply, a servant entered, and addressed
Cornelia.

"Your mother wants to show your Paris hat and veil, and handsomest
point-lace set, to Mrs. Vincent, and Miss Julia says, can't she run
up and see you a minute?"

A sneering smile accompanied the contemptuous answer, which was
delivered in no particularly gentle manner.

"This is the second time those 'particular friends' of ours have
called to inspect my winter outfit. Take down my entire wardrobe to
them: dresses, bonnets, mantles, laces, handkerchiefs, ribbons,
shawls--nay, gloves and slippers, for there is a 'new style' of
catch on one, and of bows and buckles on the other. Do you hear me,
Mary? don't leave a rag of my French finery behind. Let the
examination be sufficiently complete this time. Don't forget the
Indian shawl and the opera cloak and hood, nor that ornamental comb,
named after the last popular danseuse; and tell Miss Julia she will
please excuse me--another time I will try to see her. Say I am
engaged."

Some moments elapsed, during which Mary opened and shut a number of
drawers and boxes, and finally disappeared, staggering beneath a
load of silks, velvets, and laces. As the door closed behind her,
Cornelia smoothed her brow, and said apologetically:

"Doubtless it seems a mere trifle of accommodation to display all
that mass of finery to their eagerly curious eyes; but I assure you
that, though I have not been at home quite a week, those things have
vacated their places at least twenty times for inspection; and this
ridiculous mania for the 'latest style' disgusts me beyond measure.
I tell you, the majority of the women in this town think of nothing
else. I have not yet looked over my wardrobe myself. Mother selected
it in Paris, and I did not trouble myself to examine it when it was
unpacked."

Beulah smiled, but offered no comment. Cornelia suddenly sank back
in her chair, and said hastily:

"Give me that vial on the bureau! Quick! quick!"

Beulah sprang up and handed her the vial, which she put to her lips.
She was ghastly pale, her features writhed, and heavy drops
glistened on her brow, corrugated by severe pain.

"Can I do anything for you, Cornelia? Shall I call your mother?"

"No. You may fan me, if you will." She moaned and closed her eyes.

Beulah seized a fan, and did as requested, now and then wiping away
the moisture which gathered around the lips and forehead. Gradually
the paroxysm passed off, and, opening her eyes, she said wearily:

"That will do, thank you. Now pour out a glass of water from the
pitcher yonder."

Beulah handed her the draught, saying, with surprise:

"Sitting wrapped up by a fire and drinking ice-water!"

"Yes; I use ice-water the year round. Please touch the bellrope,
will you?"

As Beulah resumed her seat, Cornelia added, with a forced laugh:

"You look as if you pitied me."

"I do, most sincerely. Do you suffer in this way often?"

"Yes--no--well, when I am prudent I don't." Then, turning to the
servant, who stood at the door, she continued: "John, go to Dr.
Hartwell's office (not his house, mind you), and leave word that he
must come here before night. Do you understand? Shut the door-stop!
send up some coal!"

She drew her chair closer to the fire, and, extending her slippered
feet on the marble hearth, said:

"I have suffered more during the last three days than in six months
before. Last night I did not close my eyes--and Dr. Hartwell must
prepare me some medicine. What is the matter with Clara Sanders? She
looks like an alabaster image!"

"She has never recovered entirely from that attack of yellow fever;
and a day or two ago she took cold, and has had constant fever
since. I suppose she will see the doctor while I am here. I feel
anxious about her."

"She looks ethereal, as if refined for a translation to heaven,"
continued Cornelia musingly; then suddenly lifting her head, she
listened an instant, and exclaimed angrily: "It is very strange that
I am not to have an hour's peace and enjoyment with you, without--"

The door opened, and a graceful form and lovely face approached the
fireplace. "Miss Benton, suffer me to introduce my cousin, Miss
Dupres," said Cornelia very coldly.

The young lady just inclined her head, and proceeded to scan
Beulah's countenance and dress, with a degree of cool impertinence
which was absolutely amusing. Evidently, however, Cornelia saw
nothing amusing in this ill-bred stare, for she pushed a light chair
impatiently toward her, saying:

"Sit down, Antoinette!"

She threw herself into the seat with a sort of languid grace, and
said, in the most musical of voices:

"Why would not you see Julia Vincent? She was so much disappointed."

"Simply and solely because I did not choose to see her. Be good
enough to move your chair to one side, if you please," snapped
Cornelia.

"That was very unkind in you, considering she is so fond of you. We
are all to spend the evening with her next week--you, and your
brother, and I. A mere 'sociable,' she says." She had been
admiringly inspecting her small hands, loaded with diamonds; and
now, turning round, she again freely scrutinized Beulah, who had
been silently contemplating her beautiful oval profile and silky
auburn curls. Certainly Antoinette Dupres was beautiful, but it was
such a beauty as one sees in wax dolls--blank, soulless,
expressionless, if I may except the predominating expression of
self-satisfaction. Beulah's quiet dignity failed to repel the
continued stare fixed upon her, and, gathering up the folds of her
shawl, she rose.

"Don't go," said Cornelia earnestly.

"I must; Clara is alone, and I promised to return soon."

"When will you come again?" Cornelia took her hand and pressed it
warmly.

"I really do not know. I hope you will be better soon."

"Eugene will be disappointed; he expects you to spend the evening
with us. What shall I tell him?"

"Nothing."

"I will come and see you the very first day I can get out of this
prison-house of mine. Meantime, if I send for you, will you come and
sit with me?"

"That depends upon circumstances. If you are sick and lonely, I
certainly will. Good-by."

"Good-by, Beulah." The haughty heiress drew the orphan's face down
to hers and kissed her cordially. Not a little surprised by this
unexpected demonstration of affection in one so cold and stately,
Beulah bowed distantly to the cousin, who returned the salutation
still more distantly, and, hastening down the steps, was glad to
find herself once more under the dome of sky, gray and rainy though
it was. The wind sighed and sobbed through the streets, and a few
cold drops fell, as she approached Mrs. Hoyt's. Quickening her
steps, she ran in by a side entrance, and was soon at Clara's room.
The door stood open, and, with bonnet and shawl in her hand, she
entered, little prepared to meet her guardian, for she had absented
herself with the hope of avoiding him. He was sitting by a table,
preparing some medicine, and looked up involuntarily as she came in.
His eyes lightened instantly, but he merely said:

"Good-evening, Beulah."

The tone was less icy than on previous occasions, and, crossing the
room at once, she stood beside him, and held out her hand.

"How are you, sir?"

He did not, take the hand, but looked at her keenly, and said:

"You are an admirable nurse, to go off and leave your sick friend."

Beulah threw down her bonnet and shawl, and, retreating to the
hearth, began to warm her fingers, as she replied, with
indifference:

"I have just left another of your patients. Cornelia Graham has been
worse than usual for a day or two. Clara, I will put away my outdoor
wrappings and be with you presently." She retired to her own room,
and, leaning against the window, where the rain was now pattering
drearily, she murmured faintly:

"Will he always treat me so? Have I lost my friend forever? Once he
was so different; so kind, even in his sternness!" A tear hung upon
her lash, and fell on her hand; she brushed it hastily away, and
stood thinking over this alienation, so painful and unnatural, when
she heard her guardian close Clara's door and walk across the hall
to the head of the stairs. She waited a while, until she thought he
had reached his buggy, and slowly proceeded to Clara's room. Her
eyes were fixed on the floor and her hand was already on the bolt of
the door, when a deep voice startled her.

"Beulah!"

She looked up at him proudly. Resentment had usurped the place of
grief. But she could not bear the earnest eyes that looked into hers
with such misty splendor; and, provoked at her own emotion, she
asked coldly:

"What do you want, sir?"

He did not answer at once, but stood observing her closely. She felt
the hot blood rush into her usually cold, pale face, and, despite
her efforts to seem perfectly indifferent, her eyelids and lips
would tremble. His hand rested lightly on her shoulder, and he spoke
very gently.

"Child, have you been ill? You look wretched. What ails you,
Beulah?"

"Nothing, sir."

"That will not answer. Tell me, child, tell me!"

"I tell you I am as well as usual," cried she impatiently, yet her
voice faltered. She was struggling desperately with her own heart.
The return of his old manner, the winning tones of his voice,
affected her more than she was willing he should see.

"Beulah, you used to be truthful and candid."

"I am so still," she returned stoutly, though tears began to gather
in her eyes.

"No, child; already the world has changed you."

A shadow fell over his face, and the sad eyes were like clouded
stars.

"You know better, sir! I am just what I always was! It is you who
are so changed! Once you were my friend; my guardian! Once you were
kind, and guided me; but now you are stern, and bitter, and
tyrannical!" She spoke passionately, and tears, which she bravely
tried to force back, rolled swiftly down her cheeks. His light touch
on her shoulder tightened until it seemed a hand of steel, and, with
an expression which she never forgot, even in after years, he
answered:

"Tyrannical! Not to you, child!"

"Yes, sir; tyrannical! cruelly tyrannical! Because I dared to think
and act for myself, you have cast off--utterly! You try to see how
cold and distant you can be; and show me that you don't care whether
I live or die, so long as I choose to be independent of you. I did
not believe that you could ever be so ungenerous!" She looked up at
him with swimming eyes. He smiled down into her tearful face, and
asked:

"Why did you defy me, child?"

"I did not, sir, until you treated me worse than the servants; worse
than you did Charon even."

"How?"

"How, indeed! You left me in your own house without one word of
good-by, when you expected to be absent an indefinite time. Did you
suppose that I would remain there an hour after such treatment?"

He smiled again, and said in the low, musical tone which she had
always found so difficult to resist.

"Come back, my child. Come back to me!"

"Never, sir! never!" answered she resolutely.

A stony hue settled on his face; the lips seemed instantly frozen,
and, removing his hand from her shoulder, he said, as if talking to
a perfect stranger: "See that Clara Sanders needs nothing; she is
far from being well."

He left her; but her heart conquered for an instant, and she sprang
down two steps and caught his hand. Pressing her face against his
arm, she exclaimed brokenly:

"Oh, sir! do not cast me off entirely! My friend, my guardian,
indeed I have not deserved this!"

He laid his hand on her bowed head, and said calmly:

"Fierce, proud spirit! Ah! it will take long years of trial and
suffering to tame you. Go, Beulah! You have cast yourself off. It
was no wish, no work of mine."

He lifted her head from his arm, gently unclasped her fingers, and
walked away. Beulah dried the tears on her cheek, and, composing
herself by a great effort, returned to Clara. The latter still sat
in an easy-chair, and leaned back with closed eyes. Beulah made no
effort to attract her attention, and sat down noiselessly to reflect
upon her guardian's words and the separation which, she now clearly
saw, he intended should be final. There, in the gathering gloom of
twilight, sat Clara Sanders, nerving her heart for the dreary
future; solemnly and silently burying the cherished hopes that had
irised her path, and now, looking steadily forward to coming years,
she said to her drooping spirit: "Be strong and bear this sorrow. I
will conquer my own heart." How is it that, when the human soul is
called to pass through a fierce ordeal, and numbing despair seizes
the faculties and energies in her sepulchral grasp, how is it that
superhuman strength is often suddenly infused into the sinking
spirit? There is a mysterious yet resistless power given, which
winds up and sets again in motion that marvelous bit of mechanism,
the human will; that curiously intricate combination of wheels; that
mainspring of action, which has baffled the ingenuity of
philosophers, and remains yet undiscovered, behind the cloudy shrine
of the unknown. Now, there are times when this human clock well-nigh
runs down; when it seems that volition is dead; when the past is all
gilded, the future all shrouded, and the soul grows passive, hoping
nothing, fearing nothing. Yet when the slowly swinging pendulum
seems about to rest, even then an unseen hand touches the secret
spring; and, as the curiously folded coil quivers on again, the
resuscitated will is lifted triumphantly back to its throne. This
newborn power is from God. But, ye wise ones of earth, tell us how,
and by whom, is the key applied? Are ministering angels (our white-
robed idols, our loved dead) ordained to keep watch over the
machinery of the will and attend to the winding up? Or is this
infusion of strength, whereby to continue its operations, a sudden
tightening of those invisible cords which bind the All-Father to the
spirits he has created? Truly, there is no Oedipus for this vexing
riddle. Many luckless theories have been devoured by the Sphinx;
when will metaphysicians solve it? One tells us vaguely enough, "Who
knows the mysteries of will, with its vigor? Man doth not yield him
to the angels, nor unto death, utterly, save only through the
weakness of his feeble will." This pretty bubble of a "latent
strength" has vanished; the power is from God; but who shall unfold
the process? Clara felt that this precious help was given in her
hour of need; and, looking up undauntedly to the clouds that
darkened her sky, said to her hopeless heart: "I will live to do my
duty, and God's work on eirth; I will go bravely forward in my path
of labor, strewing flowers and sunshine. If God needs a lonely,
chastened spirit to do his behests, oh! shall I murmur and die
because I am chosen? What are the rushing, howling waves of life in
comparison with the calm, shoreless ocean of all eternity?"

The lamp was brought in and the fire renewed, and the two friends
sat by the hearth, silent, quiet. Clara's face had a sweet, serene
look: Beulah's was composed, so far as rigidity of features
betokened; yet the firm curve of her full upper lip might have
indexed somewhat of the confusion which reigned in her mind. Once a
great, burning light flashed out from her eyes, then the lashes
drooped a little and veiled the storm. After a time Clara lifted her
eyes, and said gently:

"Will you read to me, Beulah?"

"Gladly, gladly; what shall it be?" She sprang up eagerly.

"Anything hopeful and strengthening. Anything but your study-books
of philosophy and metaphysics. Anything but those, Beulah."

"And why not those?" asked the girl quickly.

"Because they always confuse and darken me."

"You do not understand them, perhaps?"

"I understand them sufficiently to know that they are not what I
need."

"What do you need, Clara?"

"The calm content and courage to do my duty through life. I want to
be patient and useful."

The gray eyes rested searchingly on the sweet face, and then, with a
contracted brow, Beulah stepped to the window and looked out. The
night was gusty, dark, and rainy; heavy drops pattered briskly down
the panes. She turned away, and, standing on the hearth, with her
hands behind her, slowly repeated the beautiful lines, beginning:

  "'The day is done, and the darkness
     Falls from the wings of night,
    As a feather is wafted downward
     From an eagle in his flight.'"

Her voice was low and musical, and, as she concluded the short poem
which seemed so singularly suited to Clara's wishes, the latter said
earnestly:

"Yes, yes, Beulah,"

  "'Such songs have power to quiet
     The restless pulse of care,
    And come like the benediction
     That follows after prayer.'"

"Let us obey the poet's injunction, and realize the closing lines:"

  "'And the night shall be filled with music,
      And the cares that infest the day
    Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
      And as silently steal away.'"

Still Beulah stood on the hearth, with a dreamy abstraction looking
out from her eyes, and when she spoke there was a touch of
impatience in her tone:

"Why try to escape it all, Clara? If those 'grand old masters,'
those 'bards sublime,' who tell us in trumpet-tones of 'life's
endless toil and endeavor,' speak to you through my loved books, why
should you 'long for rest'?"

"An unfledged birdling cannot mount to the dizzy eyries of the
eagle," answered Clara meekly.

"One grows strong only by struggling with difficulties. Strong
swimmers are such from fierce buffetings with hungry waves. Come out
of your warm nest of inertia! Strengthen your wings by battling with
storm and wind!" Her brow bent as she spoke.

"Beulah, what sustains you would starve me."

"Something has come over you, Clara."

"Yes; a great trust in God's wisdom and mercy has stolen into my
heart. I no longer look despondingly into my future."

"Why? Because you fancy that future will be very short and painless?
Ah, Clara, is this trust, when the end comes and there is no more
work to do?"

"You are mistaken; I do not see Death beckoning me home. Oh, I have
not earned a home yet! I look forward to years of labor, profit, and
peace. To-day I found some lines in the morning paper. Nay, don't
curl your lips with a sneer at what you call 'newspaper poetry.'
Listen to the words that came like a message from the spirit-land to
my murmuring heart." Her voice was low and unsteady, as she read:

  "'Two hands upon the breast, and labor's done;
    Two pale feet crossed in rest, the race is won.
    Two eyes with coin-weights shut, all tears cease;
    Two lips where grief is mute, and wrath at peace.
    So pray we oftentimes, mourning our lot;
    God, in his kindness, answereth not!'"

"Such, Beulah, I felt had been my unvoiced prayer; but now!"

  "'Two hands to work addressed; aye, for his praise,
    Two feet that never rest; walking his ways;
    Two eyes that look above, still through all tears;
    Two lips that breathe but love; never more fears.
    SO WE CRY AFTERWARD, LOW AT OUR KNEES.
    PARDON THOSE ERRING CRIES! FATHER, HEAR THESE!"

"Oh Beulah, such is now my prayer."

As Beulah stood near the lamp, strange shadows fell on her brow;
shadows from the long, curling lashes. After a brief silence, she
asked earnestly:

"Are your prayers answered, Clara? Does God hear you?"

"Yes; oh, yes!" "Wherefore?"

"Because Christ died!"

"Is your faith in Christ so firm? Does it never waver?"

"Never; even in my most desponding moments."

Beulah looked at her keenly; and asked, with something like a
shiver:

"Did it never occur to you to doubt the plan of redemption, as
taught by divines, as laid down in the New Testament?"

"No, never. I want to die before such a doubt occurs to me. Oh, what
would my life be without that plan? What would a fallen, sin-cursed
world be without a Jesus?"

"But why curse a race in order to necessitate a Saviour?"

Clara looked in astonishment at the pale, fixed features before her.
A frightened expression came over her own countenance, a look of
shuddering horror; and, putting up her wasted hands, as if to ward
off some grim phantom, she cried:

"Oh, Beulah! what is this? You are not an infidel?"

Her companion was silent a moment; then said emphatically:

"Dr. Hartwell does not believe the religion you hold so dear."

Clara covered her face with her hands, and answered brokenly:

"Beulah, I have envied you, because I fancied that your superior
intellect won you the love which I was weak enough to expect and
need. But if it has brought you both to doubt the Bible, I thank God
that the fatal gift was withheld from me. Have your books and
studies brought you to this? Beulah! Beulah! throw them into the
fire, and come back to trust in Christ."

She held out her hands imploringly; but, with a singularly cold
smile, her friend replied:

"You must go to sleep. Your fever is rising. Don't talk any more to-
night; I will not hear you."

An hour after Clara slept soundly, and Beulah sat in her own room
bending over a book. Midnight study had long since become an
habitual thing; nay, two and three o'clock frequently found her
beside the waning lamp. Was it any marvel that, as Dr. Hartwell
expressed it, she "looked wretched." From her earliest childhood she
had been possessed by an active spirit of inquiry which constantly
impelled her to investigate, and as far as possible to explain, the
mysteries which surrounded, her on every side. With her growth grew
this haunting spirit, which asked continually: "What am I? Whence
did I come? And whither am I bound? What is life? What is death? Am
I my own mistress, or am I but a tool in the hands of my Maker? What
constitutes the difference between my mind and my body? Is there any
difference? If spirit must needs have body to incase it, and body
must have a spirit to animate it, may they not be identical? With
these primeval foundation questions began her speculative career. In
the solitude of her own soul she struggled bravely and earnestly to
answer those "dread questions, which, like swords of flaming fire,
tokens of imprisonment, encompass man on earth." Of course mystery
triumphed. Panting for the truth, she pored over her Bible,
supposing that here, at least, all clouds would melt away; but here,
too, some inexplicable passages confronted her. Physically, morally,
and mentally she found the world warring. To reconcile these
antagonisms with the conditions and requirements of Holy Writ, she
now most faithfully set to work. Ah, proudly aspiring soul! How many
earnest thinkers had essayed the same mighty task, and died under
the intolerable burden? Unluckily for her, there was no one to
direct or assist her. She scrupulously endeavored to conceal her
doubts and questions from her guardian. Poor child? she fancied she
concealed them so effectually from his knowledge; while he silently
noted the march of skepticism in her nature. There were dim,
puzzling passages of Scripture which she studied on her knees; now
trying to comprehend them, and now beseeching the Source of all
knowledge to enlighten her. But, as has happened to numberless
others, there was seemingly no assistance given. The clouds grew
denser and darker, and, like the "cry of strong swimmers in their
agony," her prayers had gone up to the Throne of Grace. Sometimes
she was tempted to go to the minister of the church where she sat
Sunday after Sunday, and beg him to explain the mysteries to her.
But the pompous austerity of his manners repelled her whenever she
thought of broaching the subject, and gradually she saw that she
must work out her own problems. Thus, from week to week and month to
month, she toiled on, with a slowly dying faith, constantly
clambering over obstacles which seemed to stand between her trust
and revelation. It was no longer study for the sake of erudition;
these riddles involved all that she prized in Time and Eternity, and
she grasped books of every description with the eagerness of a
famishing nature. What dire chance threw into her hands such works
as Emerson's, Carlyle's, and Goethe's? Like the waves of the clear,
sunny sea, they only increased her thirst to madness. Her burning
lips were ever at these fountains; and, in her reckless eagerness,
she plunged into the gulf of German speculation. Here she believed
that she had indeed found the "true processes," and, with renewed
zest, continued the work of questioning. At this stage of the
conflict the pestilential scourge was laid upon the city, and she
paused from her metaphysical toil to close glazed eyes and shroud
soulless clay. In the awful hush of those hours of watching she
looked calmly for some solution, and longed for the unquestioning
faith of early years. But these influences passed without aiding her
in the least, and, with rekindled ardor, she went back to her false
prophets. In addition, ethnology beckoned her on to conclusions
apparently antagonistic to the revealed system, and the stony face
of geology seemed radiant with characters of light, which she might
decipher and find some security in. From Dr. Asbury's extensive
collection she snatched treatise after treatise. The sages of
geology talked of the pre-Adamic eras, and of man's ending the
slowly forged chain, of which the radiata form the lowest link; and
then she was told that in those pre-Adamic ages paleontologists find
no trace whatever of that golden time when the vast animal creation
lived in harmony and bloodshed was unknown; ergo, man's fall in Eden
had no agency in bringing death into the world; ergo, that chapter
in Genesis need puzzle her no more.

Finally, she learned that she was the crowning intelligence in the
vast progression; that she would ultimately become part of Deity.
"The long ascending line, from dead matter to man, had been a
progress Godward, and the next advance would unite creation and
Creator in one person." With all her aspirations she had never
dreamed of such a future as was here promised her. To-night she was
closely following that most anomalous of all guides, "Herr
Teufelsdrockh." Urged on by the same "unrest," she was stumbling
along dim, devious paths, while from every side whispers came to
her: "Nature is one: she is your mother, and divine: she is God! The
'living garment of God.'" Through the "everlasting No," and the
"everlasting Yea," she groped her way, darkly, tremblingly, waiting
for the day-star of Truth to dawn; but, at last, when she fancied
she saw the first rays silvering the night, and looked up hopefully,
it proved one of many ignes-fatui which had flashed across her path,
and she saw that it was Goethe, uplifted as the prophet of the
genuine religion. The book fell from her nerveless fingers; she
closed her eyes, and groaned. It was all "confusion, worse
confounded." She could not for her life have told what she believed,
much less what she did not believe. The landmarks of earlier years
were swept away; the beacon light of Calvary had sunk below her
horizon. A howling chaos seemed about to ingulf her. At that moment
she would gladly have sought assistance from her guardian; but how
could she approach him after their last interview? The friendly face
and cordial kindness of Dr. Asbury flashed upon her memory, and she
resolved to confide her doubts and difficulties to him, hoping to
obtain from his clear and matured judgment some clew which might
enable her to emerge from the labyrinth that involved her. She knelt
and tried to pray. To what did she, on bended knees, send up
passionate supplications? To nature? to heroes? These were the new
deities. She could not pray; all grew dark; she pressed her hands to
her throbbing brain, striving to clear away the mists. "Sartor" had
effectually blindfolded her, and she threw herself down to sleep
with a shivering dread, as of a young child separated from its
mother, and wailing in some starless desert.



CHAPTER XXI.


It was Christmas Eve--cold, cloudy, and damp. The store windows were
gay with every conceivable and inconceivable device for attracting
attention. Parents, nurses, and porters hurried along with
mysterious looking bundles and important countenances. Crowds of
curious, merry children thronged the sidewalks; here a thinly clad,
meager boy, looked, with longing eyes and empty pockets, at pyramids
of fruit and sweetmeats; and there a richly dressed group chattered
like blackbirds, and occasionally fired a pack of crackers, to the
infinite dismay of horses and drivers. Little chaps just out of
frocks rushed about, with their round, rosy faces hid under
grotesque masks; and shouts of laughter, and the squeak of penny
trumpets, and mutter of miniature drums swelled to a continuous din,
which would have been quite respectable even on the plain of Shinar.
The annual jubilee had come, and young and old seemed determined to
celebrate it with due zeal. From her window Beulah looked down on
the merry groups, and involuntarily contrasted the bustling, crowded
streets with the silence and desolation which had reigned over the
same thoroughfares only a few months before. One brief year ago
childish voices prattled of Santa Claus and gift stockings, and
little feet pattered along these same pavements, with tiny hands
full of toys. Fond parents, too, had gone eagerly in and out of
these gay shops, hunting presents for their darlings. Where were
they? children and parents? Ah! a cold, silent band of sleepers in
yonder necropolis, where solemn cedars were chanting an everlasting
dirge. Death's harvest time was in all seasons; when would her own
throbbing pulses be stilled and her questioning tones hushed? Might
not the summons be on that very wintry blast which rushed over her
hot brow? And if it should be so? Beulah pressed her face closer to
the window, and thought it was too inconceivable that she also
should die. She knew it was the common birthright, the one
unchanging heritage of all humanity; yet long vistas of life opened
before her, and though, like a pall, the shadow of the tomb hung
over the end, it was very distant, very dim.

"What makes you look so solemn?" asked Clara, who had been busily
engaged in dressing a doll for one of Mrs. Hoyt's children.

"Because I feel solemn, I suppose."

Clara came up and, passing her arm round Beulah's shoulder, gazed
down into the noisy street. She still wore mourning, and the
alabaster fairness of her complexion contrasted vividly with the
black bombazine dress. Though thin and pale, there was an
indescribable expression of peace on the sweet face; a calm, clear
light of contentment in the mild, brown eyes. The holy serenity of
the countenance was rendered more apparent by the restless, stormy
visage of her companion. Every passing cloud of perplexed thought
cast its shadow over Beulah's face, and on this occasion she looked
more than usually grave.

"Ah, how merry I used to be on Christmas Eve! Indeed, I can remember
having been half wild with excitement. Yet now it all seems like a
flitting dream." Clara spoke musingly, yet without sadness.

"Time has laid his wonder-working touch upon you," answered Beulah.

"How is it, Beulah, that you never speak of your childhood?"

"Because it was

  "All dark and barren as a rainy sea."

"But you never talk about your parents?"

"I love my father's memory. Ah! it is enshrined in my heart's
holiest sanctuary. He was a noble, loving man, and my affection for
him bordered on idolatry."

"And your mother?"

"I knew little of her. She died before I was old enough to remember
much about her."

Her face was full of bitter recollections; her eyes seemed wandering
through some storehouse of sorrows. Clara feared her friend, much as
she loved her, and since the partial discovery of her skepticism she
had rather shunned her society. Now she watched the heavy brow and
deep, piercing eyes uneasily, and, gently withdrawing her arm, she
glided out of the room. The tide of life still swelled through the
streets, and, forcibly casting the load of painful reminiscences
from her, Beulah kept her eyes on the merry faces, and listened to
the gay, careless prattle of the excited children. The stately
rustle of brocaded silk caused her to look up, and Cornelia Graham
greeted her with:

"I have come to take you home with me for the holidays."

"I can't go."

"Why not? You cling to this dark garret of yours as if it possessed
all the charms of Vaucluse."

"Diogenes loved his tub, you know," said Beulah quietly.

"An analogous case, truly. But, jesting aside, you must come,
Beulah. Eugene expects you; so do my parents; and, above all, I want
you. Come." Cornelia laid her hand on the girl's shoulders as she
spoke.

"You have been ill again," said Beulah, examining the sallow face.

"Not ill, but I shall be soon, I know. One of my old attacks is
coming on; I feel it; and Beulah, to be honest, which I can with you
(without casting pearls before swine), that very circumstance makes
me want you. I dined out to-day, and have just left the fashionable
crowd to come and ask you to spend the holidays with me. The house
will be gay. Antoinette intends to have a set of tableaux; but it is
probable I shall be confined to my room. Will you give your time to
a cross invalid, for such I certainly am? I would be stretched upon
St. Lawrence's gridiron before I could be brought to say as much to
anybody else. I am not accustomed to ask favors, Beulah; it has been
my habit to grant them. Nevertheless, I want you, and am not too
proud to come after you. Will you come?"

"Yes, if I may remain with you altogether."

"Thank you. Come, get ready, quick! Give me a fan." Sinking into a
chair, she wiped away the cold drops which had collected about her
brow.

"Cornelia, I have only one day's leisure. School begins again day
after to-morrow."

"Well, well; one day, then. Be quick!"

In a few moments Beulah was ready; and, after informing Clara and
Mrs. Hoyt of her intended absence, the two entered Mr. Graham's
elegant carriage. The gas was now lighted, and the spirited horses
dashed along through streets brilliantly illuminated and thronged
with happy people.

"What a Babel! About equal to Constantinople, and its dog-
orchestra," muttered Cornelia, as the driver paused to allow one of
the military companies to pass. The martial music, together with the
hubbub which otherwise prevailed, alarmed the horses, and they
plunged violently. The driver endeavored to back out into an alley;
but, in the attempt, the carriage was whirled round, the coachman
jerked over the dashboard into the gutter, and the frightened
animals dashed at furious speed down the main street. Luckily the
top was thrown back, making the carriage open, and, springing
forward to the post so unceremoniously vacated by the driver, Beulah
snatched the reins, which were just within her reach. Curb the
rushing horses she did not hope to do; but, by cautious energy,
succeeded in turning them sufficiently aside to avoid coming in
collision with several other carriages. The street was full of
vehicles, and though, as may well be imagined, there was every
effort made to give the track, the carriage rushed against the
bright yellow wheels of a light buggy in which two young men were
trying to manage a fast trotter. There was a terrible smash of
wheels, the young gentlemen were suddenly landed in the mud, and
their emancipated steed galloped on, with the wreck of the buggy at
his heels. Men, women, and children gathered on the corners to
witness the denouement. Drays, carts, and wagons were seized with a
simultaneous stampede, which soon cleared the middle of the street,
and, uninjured by the collision, our carriage flew on. Cornelia sat
on the back seat, ghastly pale and motionless, expecting every
minute to be hurled out, while Beulah stood up in front, reins in
hand, trying to guide the maddened horses. Her bonnet fell off; the
motion loosened her comb, and down came her long, heavy hair in
black, blinding folds. She shook it all back from her face, and soon
saw that this reckless game of dodging vehicles could not last much
longer. Straight ahead, at the end of the street, was the wharf,
crowded with cotton bales, barrels, and a variety of freight; just
beyond was the river. A number of gentlemen stood on a neighboring
corner, and with one impulse they rushed forward with extended arms.
On sprang the horses almost upon them; eager hands grasped at the
bits.

"Stand back-all of you! You might as well catch at the winds!"
shouted Beulah, and, with one last effort, she threw, her whole
weight on the reins and turned the horses into a cross street. The
wheels struck the curbstone, the carriage tilted, rocked, fell back
again, and on they went for three squares more, when the horses
stopped short before the livery stable where they were kept.
Embossed with foam, and panting like stags at bay, they were seized
by a dozen hands.

"By all the gods of Greece! you have had a flying trip of it!" cried
Dr. Asbury, with one foot on the carriage step and both hands
extended, while his gray hair hung in confusion about his face. He
had followed them for at least half a dozen blocks, and was pale
with anxiety.

"See about Cornelia," said Beulah, seating herself for the first
time and twisting up the veil of hair which swept round her form.

"Cornelia has fainted! Halloo, there! some water! quick!" said the
doctor, stepping into the carriage and attempting to lift the
motionless figure. But Cornelia opened her eyes, and answered
unsteadily:

"No! carry me home! Dr. Asbury, take me home!"

The brilliant eyes closed, a sort of spasm distorted her features,
and she sank back once more, rigid and seemingly lifeless. Dr.
Asbury took the reins firmly in his hands, seated himself, and,
speaking gently to the trembling horses, started homeward. They
plunged violently at first, but he used the whip unsparingly, and in
a few moments they trotted briskly along. Mrs. Graham and her niece
had not yet reached home, but Mr. Graham met the carriage at the
door, with considerable agitation and alarm in his usually
phlegmatic countenance. As Cornelia's colorless face met his view,
he threw up his hands, staggered back, and exclaimed:

"My God! is she dead? I knew it would end this way some day!"

"Nonsense, Graham! She is frightened out of her wits--that is all.
These Yankee horses of yours have been playing the very deuce. Clear
the way there, all of you!"

Lifting Cornelia in his strong arms, Dr. Asbury carried her up to
her own room and placed her on a sofa. Having known her from
childhood, and treated her so often in similar attacks, he
immediately administered some medicine, and ere long had the
satisfaction of seeing the rigid aspect leave her face. She sat up,
and, without a word, began to take off her kid gloves, which fitted
tightly. Suddenly looking up at her father, who was anxiously
regarding her, she said abruptly:

"There are no more like her. She kept me from making a simpleton of
myself."

"Whom do you mean, my dear?"

"Whom? whom? Why, Beulah Benton, of course! Where is she? Come out
of that corner, you quaint, solemn statue!" She held out her hand,
and a warm, glad smile broke over her pallid face as Beulah
approached her.

"You certainly created a very decided sensation. Beulah made quite a
passable Medea, with her inky hair trailing over the back of the
seat, and her little hands grasping the reins with desperate energy.
By Phoebus! you turned that corner at the bank like an electric
bolt. Shake hands, Beulah! After this you will do in any emergency."
The doctor looked at her with an expression of paternal pride and
affection.

"I feel very grateful to you," began Mr. Graham; but Beulah cut
short his acknowledgments by saying hastily:

"Sir, I did nothing at all; Dr. Asbury is resolved to make a heroine
of me, that is all. You owe me nothing."

At this moment the coachman limped into the room, with garments
dabbled with mud, and inquired anxiously whether the young ladies
were hurt.

"No, you son of Pluto; not hurt at all, thanks to your careful
driving," answered the doctor, putting his hands in his pockets and
eying the discomfited coachman humorously.

"Were you hurt by your fall?" asked Beulah.

"Considerable bumped and thumped, but not much hurt, thank you,
miss. I was awfully scared when I rose out of that choking gutter,
and saw you standing up, and the horses flying like ole Satan
himself was after them. I am marvelous glad nothing was hurt. And
now, master, sir, I want you to go to the mayor and have this 'ere
firecracker business stopped. A parcel of rascally boys set a match
to a whole pack and flung 'em right under Andrew Jackson's feet! Of
course I couldn't manage him after that. I 'clare to gracious! it's
a sin and a shame the way the boys in this town do carry on
Christmas times and, indeed, every other time!" Wilson hobbled out,
grumbling audibly.

"Beulah, you must come and spend Christmas at my house. The girls
and my wife were talking about it to-day, and concluded to send the
carriage for you early in the morning." The doctor drew on his
gloves as he spoke.

"They may spare themselves the trouble, sir; she spends it with me,"
answered Cornelia.

"With you! After such a frolic as you two indulged in this evening,
you ought not to be trusted together. If I had not been so anxious
about you I could have laughed heartily at the doleful countenances
of those two young gents, as they picked themselves up out of the
mud. Such rueful plight as their lemon-colored gloves were in! I
will send Hartwell to see you to-morrow, Cornelia. A merry Christmas
to you all, in spite of your Mazeppa episode." His good-humored
countenance vanished.

"There comes Antoinette ejaculating up the steps. Father, tell her I
do not want to see her, or anybody else. Don't let her come in
here!" cried Cornelia, with a nervous start, as voices were heard in
the passage.

Mr. Graham, who felt a certain awe of his willful child,
notwithstanding his equable temper, immediately withdrew. His wife
hastened into the room, and, with trembling lips touched her
daughter's cheek and brow, exclaiming:

"Oh, my child, what a narrow escape! It is horrible to think of--
horrible!"

"Not at all, mother, seeing that nothing was hurt in the least. I
was sick, any way, as I told you. Don't you see Beulah sitting
there?"

Mrs. Graham welcomed her guest cordially.

"You have a great deal of presence of mind, I believe, Miss Beulah?
You are fortunate."

"I thanked my stars that Antoinette was not in the carriage; for
most certainly she would have made matters worse, by screaming like
an idiot and jumping out. Beulah taught me common sense," answered
Cornelia, unclasping a bracelet and tossing a handful of jewelry
across the room to her dressing table.

"You underrate yourself, my dear," said her mother, a little
proudly.

"Not at all. Humility, genuine or feigned, is not one of our family
traits. Mother, will you send up tea for us? We want a quiet time;
at least, I do, and Beulah will stay with me."

"But, my love, it is selfish to exclude the balance of the family.
Why not come down to the sitting room, where we can all be
together?" pleaded the mother.

"Because I prefer staying just where I am. Beulah, put down that
window, will you? Mary must think that I have been converted into a
Polar bear; and, mother, have some coal brought up. If there is any
truth in the metempsychosis of the Orient, I certainly was a palm
tree or a rhinoceros in the last stage of my existence." She
shivered, and wrapped a heavy shawl up to her very chin.

"May I come in?" asked Eugene, at the door.

"No; go and sing duets with Netta, and amuse yourself downstairs,"
said she shortly, while a frown darkened her face.

Nevertheless he came in, shook hands with Beulah, and, leaning over
the back of Cornelia's chair, asked tenderly:

"How is my sister? I heard on the street that you were injured."

"Oh, I suppose the whole city will be bemoaning my tragic fate. I am
not at all hurt, Eugene."

"You have had one of those attacks, though; I see from your face.
Has it passed off entirely?"

"No; and I want to be quiet. Beulah is going to read me to sleep
after a while. You may go down now."

"Beulah, you will be with us to-morrow, I suppose?"

"Yes."

"I am sorry I am obliged to dine out; I shall be at home, however,
most of the day. I called the other evening, but you were not at
home."

"Yes; I was sorry I did not see you," said Beulah, looking steadily
at his flushed face and sparkling eyes.

"Dine out, Eugene! For what, I should like to know?" cried Cornelia,
raising herself in her chair and fixing her eyes impatiently upon
him. "Henderson and Milbank are both here, you know, and I could not
refuse to join them in a Christmas dinner."

"Then why did you not invite them to dine at your own house?" Her
voice was angry; her glance searching.

"The party was made up before I knew anything about it. They will
all be here in the evening."

"I doubt it!" said she sneeringly. The flush deepened on his cheek
and he bit his lip; then, turning suddenly to Beulah, he said, as he
suffered his eyes to wander over her plain, fawn-colored merino
dress:

"You have not yet heard Netta sing, I believe!"

"No."

"Where is she, Cornelia?"

"I have no idea."

"I hope my sister will be well enough to take part in the tableaux
to-morrow evening." Taking her beautifully molded hand, he looked at
her anxiously. Her piercing, black eyes were riveted on his
countenance, as she answered:

"I don't know, Eugene; I have long since abandoned the hope of ever
being well again. Perhaps I may be able to get down to the parlors.
There is Antoinette in the passage. Good-night." She motioned him
away.

He kissed her tenderly, shook hands a second time with Beulah, and
left the room. Cornelia bowed her head on her palms; and, though her
features were concealed, Beulah thought she moaned, as if in pain.

"Cornelia, are you ill again? What can I do for you?"

The feeble woman lifted her haggard face, and answered:

"What can you do? That remains to be seen. Something must be done.
Beulah, I may die at any hour, and you must save him."

"What do you mean?" Beulah's heart throbbed painfully as she asked
this simple question.

"You know very well what I mean! Oh, Beulah! Beulah! it bows my
proud spirit into the dust!" Again she averted her head; there was a
short silence. Beulah leaned her face on her hand, and then Cornelia
continued:

"Did you detect it when he first came home?"

"Yes."

"Oh, it is like a hideous nightmare! I cannot realize that Eugene,
so noble, so pure, so refined, could ever have gone to the excesses
he has been guilty of. He left home all that he should be; but five
years abroad have strangely changed him. My parents will not see it;
my mother says 'All young men are wild at first'; and my father
shuts his eyes to his altered habits. Eugene constantly drinks too
much. I have never seen him intoxicated. I don't know that he has
been since he joined us in Italy; but I dread continually lest his
miserable associates lead him further astray. I had hoped that, in
leaving his companions at the university, he had left temptation
too; but the associates he has found here are even worse. I hope I
shall be quiet in my grave before I see him drunk. It would kill me,
I verily believe, to know that he had so utterly degraded himself."

She shaded her face with her hands, and Beulah replied hastily:

"He surely cannot fall so low! Eugene will never reel home, an
unconscious drunkard! Oh, no, it is impossible! impossible! The
stars in heaven will fall first!"

"Do you believe what you say?"

"I hope it; and hope engenders faith," answered Beulah.

A bitter smile curled Cornelia's lips, and, sinking back in her
chair, she continued:

"Where excessive drinking is not considered a disgrace, young men
indulge without a thought of the consequences. Instead of excluding
them from genteel circles, their dissipation is smoothed over, or
unnoticed; and it has become so prevalent in this city that of all
the gentlemen whom I meet in so-called fashionable society, there
are very few who abstain from the wine-cup. I have seen them at
parties, staggering through a quadrille, or talking the most
disgusting nonsense to girls, who have long since ceased to regard
dissipation as a stigma upon the names and characters of their
friends. I tell you the dissipation of the young men here is
sickening to think of. Since I came home I have been constantly
reminded of it; and oh, Eugene is following in their disgraceful
steps! Beulah, if the wives, and mothers, and sisters did their
duty, all this might be remedied. If they carefully and constantly
strove to shield their sons and brothers from temptation they might
preserve them from the fatal habit, which, once confirmed, it is
almost impossible to eradicate. But alas! they smile as sweetly upon
the reckless, intoxicated beaux as if they were what men should be.
I fancied that I could readily redeem Eugene from his dangerous
lapses, but my efforts are rendered useless by the temptations which
assail him from every quarter. He shuns me; hourly the barriers
between us strengthen. Beulah, I look to you. He loves you, and your
influence might prevail, if properly directed. You must save him!
You must!"

"I have not the influence you ascribe to me," answered Beulah.

"Do not say so! do not say so! Are you not to be his wife one day?"
She stood up, and heavy drops glistened on her pale forehead.

"His wife! Cornelia Graham, are you mad?" cried Beulah, lifting her
head proudly, and eying her companion with unfeigned astonishment,
while her eyes burned ominously.

"He told me that he expected to marry you; that it had always been a
settled thing. Beulah, you have not broken the engagement--surely
you have not?" She grasped Beulah's arm convulsively.

"No positive engagement ever existed. While we were children we
often spoke of our future as one, but of late neither of us has
alluded to the subject. We are only friends, linked by memories of
early years. Nay, since his return, we have almost become
strangers."

"Then I have been miserably deceived. Not two months since, he told
me that he looked upon you as his future wife. What has alienated
you? Beulah Benton, do you not love him?"

"Love him! No!"

"You loved him once--hush! don't deny it! I know that you did. You
loved him during his absence, and you must love him still. Beulah,
you do love him!"

"I have a true sisterly affection for him; but as for the love which
you allude to, I tell you, Cornelia, I have not one particle!"

"Then he is lost!" Sinking back in her chair, Cornelia groaned
aloud.

"Why Eugene should have made such an impression on your mind, I
cannot conjecture. He has grown perfectly indifferent to me; and
even if he had not, we could never be more than friends. Boyish
fancies have all passed away. He is a man now--still my friend, I
believe; but no longer what he once was to me. Cornelia, I, too, see
his growing tendency to dissipation, with a degree of painful
apprehension which I do not hesitate to avow. Though cordial enough
when we meet, I know and feel that he carefully avoids me.
Consequently, I have no opportunity to exert what little influence I
may possess. I looked at his flushed face just now, and my thoughts
flew back to the golden days of his boyhood, when he was all that a
noble, pure, generous nature could make him. I would ten thousand
times rather know that he was sleeping by my little sister's side in
the graveyard than see him disgrace himself!" Her voice faltered,
and she drooped her head to conceal the anguish which convulsed her
features.

"Beulah, if he loves you still, you will not reject him?" cried
Cornelia eagerly.

"He does not love me."

"Why will you evade me? Suppose that he does?"

"Then I tell you solemnly, not all Christendom could induce me to
marry him!"

"But to save him, Beulah! to save him!" replied Cornelia, clasping
her hands entreatingly.

"If a man's innate self-respect will not save him from habitual,
disgusting intoxication, all the female influence in the universe
would not avail. Man's will, like woman's, is stronger than his
affection, and, once subjugated by vice, all external influences
will be futile. If Eugene once sinks so low, neither you, nor I, nor
his wife--had he one--could reclaim him."

"He has deceived me! Fool that I was not to probe the mask!"
Cornelia started up and paced the floor with uncontrollable
agitation.

"Take care how you accuse him rashly! I am not prepared to believe
that he could act dishonorably toward anyone. I will not believe
it." "Oh, you, too, will get your eyes open in due time! Ha! it is
all as clear as daylight! And I, with my boasted penetration!--it
maddens me!" Her eyes glittered like polished steel.

"Explain yourself; Eugene is above suspicion!" cried Beulah, with
pale, fluttering lips.

"Explain myself! Then understand that my honorable brother professed
to love you, and pretended that he expected to marry you, simply and
solely to blind me, in order to conceal the truth. I taxed him with
a preference for Antoinette Dupres, which I fancied his manner
evinced. He denied it most earnestly, protesting that he felt bound
to you. Now do you understand?" Her lips were white, and writhed
with scorn.

"Still you may misjudge him," returned Beulah haughtily.

"No, no! My mother has seen it all along. But, fool that I was, I
believed his words! Now, Beulah, if he marries Antoinette, you will
be amply revenged, or my name is not Cornelia Graham!" She laughed
bitterly, and, dropping some medicine from a vial, swallowed the
potion and resumed her walk up and down the floor.

"Revenged! What is it to me, that he should marry your cousin? If he
loves her, it is no business of mine, and certainly you have no
right to object. You are miserably deceived if you imagine that his
marriage would cause me an instant's regret. Think you I could love
a man whom I knew to be my inferior? Indeed, you know little of my
nature." She spoke with curling lips and a proud smile.

"You place an exalted estimate upon yourself," returned Cornelia.

They looked at each other half-defiantly for a moment; then the
heiress bowed her head, and said, in low, broken tones:

"Oh, Beulah, Beulah! child of poverty! would I could change places
with you!"

"You are weak, Cornelia," answered Beulah gravely.

"In some respects, perhaps, I am; but you are bold to tell me so."

"Genuine friendship ignores all hesitancy in speaking the truth. You
sought me. I am very candid--perhaps blunt. If my honesty does not
suit you it is an easy matter to discontinue our intercourse. The
whole matter rests with you."

"You wish me to understand that you do not need my society--my
patronage?"

"Patronage implies dependence, which, in this instance, does not
exist. An earnest, self-reliant woman cannot be patronized, in the
sense in which you employ the term." She could not forbear smiling.
The thought of being under patronage was, to her, supremely
ridiculous.

"You do not want my friendship, then?"

"I doubt whether you have any to bestow. You seem to have no love
for anything," replied Beulah coldly.

"Oh, you wrong me!" cried Cornelia passionately.

"If I do, it is your own fault. I only judge you from what you have
shown of your nature."

"Remember, I have been an invalid all my life."

"I am not likely to forget it in your presence. But, Cornelia, your
whole being seems embittered."

"Yes; and you will be just like me when you have lived as long as I
have. Wait till you have seen something of the world."

"Sit down, Cornelia; you tremble from head to foot." She drew a
chair close to the hearth, and the sufferer sank into it, as if
completely exhausted. For some time neither spoke. Beulah stood with
her hands on the back of the chair, wishing herself back in her
quiet little room. After a while Cornelia said slowly:

"If you only knew Antoinette as well as I do you could ill brook the
thought of her ever being Eugene's wife."

"He is the best judge of what will promote his happiness."

"No; he is blinded, infatuated. Her pretty face veils her miserable,
contemptible defects of character. She is utterly unworthy of him."

"If she loves him sincerely, she will--"

"Don't talk of what you do not understand. She is too selfish to
love anything or anybody but herself. Mark me, whether I live to see
it or not, if he marries her, he will despise her in less than six
months, and curse himself for his blind folly. Oh, what a precious
farce it will prove!" She laughed sneeringly.

"Cornelia, you are not able to bear this excitement. For the
present, let Eugene and his future rest and try to compose yourself.
You are so nervous you can scarcely sit still."

The colorless face, with its gleaming eyes, was suddenly lifted;
and, throwing her arms round Beulah's neck, Cornelia rested her
proud head on the orphan's shoulder.

"Be my friend while I live. Oh, give me some of your calm
contentment, some of your strength!"

"I am your friend, Cornelia; I will always be such; but every soul
must be sufficient for itself. Do not look to me; lean upon your own
nature; it will suffice for all its needs."

With the young teacher, pity was almost synonymous with contempt;
and, as she looked at the joyless face of her companion, she could
not avoid thinking her miserably weak.



CHAPTER XXII.


Christmas Day was sunny and beautiful. The bending sky was as deeply
blue as that which hung over Bethlehem eighteen hundred years
before; God's coloring had not faded. Happy children prattled as
joyously as did the little Jew boys who clustered curiously about
the manger to gaze upon the holy babe, the sleeping Jesus. Human
nature had not altered one whit beneath the iron wheel of Time. Is
there a man so sunk in infamy or steeped in misanthropy that he has
not, at some period of his life, exclaimed, in view of earth's
fadeless beauty:

  "'This world is very lovely. O my God!
      I thank Thee that I live.'"

Alas for the besotted soul who cannot bend the knee of humble
adoration before nature's altar, where sacrifices are offered to the
Jehovah, pavilioned in invisibility. There is an ardent love of
nature as far removed from gross materialism or subtle pantheism on
the one hand as from stupid inappreciation on the other. There is
such a thing as looking "through nature up to nature's God,"
notwithstanding the frightened denials of those who, shocked at the
growing materialism of the age, would fain persuade this generation
to walk blindfold through the superb temple a loving God has placed
us in. While every sane and earnest mind must turn, disgusted and
humiliated, from the senseless rant which resolves all divinity into
materialistic elements, it may safely be proclaimed that genuine
aesthetics is a mighty channel through which the love and adoration
of Almighty God enters the human soul. It were an insult to the
Creator to reject the influence which even the physical world exerts
on contemplative natures. From bald, hoary mountains, and somber,
solemn forests; from thundering waves and wayside violets; from
gorgeous sunset clouds, from quiet stars and whispering winds, come
unmistakable voices, hymning of the Eternal God--the God of Moses,
of Isaac, and of Jacob. Extremes meet in every age, and in every
department. Because one false philosophy would deify the universe,
startled opponents tell us to close our ears to these musical
utterances and shut our eyes to glorious nature, God's handiwork.
Oh! why has humanity so fierce a hatred of medium paths?

Ragged boys and barefooted girls tripped gayly along the streets,
merry and uncomplaining; and, surrounded by velvet, silver, and
marble, by every superfluity of luxury, Cornelia Graham, with a
bitter heart and hopeless soul, shivered in her easy-chair before a
glowing fire. The Christmas sunlight crept in through the heavy
crimson curtains and made gorgeous fret-work on the walls, but its
cheering radiance mocked the sickly pallor of the invalid, and, as
Beulah retreated to the window and peeped into the street, she felt
an intense longing to get out under the blue sky once more. Mr. and
Mrs. Graham and Antoinette sat round the hearth, discussing the
tableaux for the evening, while, with her cheek upon her hand,
Cornelia listlessly fingered a diamond necklace which her father had
just given her. The blazing jewels slipped through her pale fingers
all unnoticed, and she looked up abstractedly when Mr. Graham
touched her, and repeated his question for the third time.

"My child, won't you come down to the sitting room?"

"No, sir; I am better here."

"But you will be so lonely."

"Not with Beulah."

"But, of course, Miss Benton will desire to see the tableaux. You
would not keep her from them?" remonstrated her father.

"Thank you, Mr. Graham, I prefer remaining with Cornelia," answered
Beulah, who had no wish to mingle in the crowd which, she understood
from the conversation, would assemble that evening in the parlors.
The trio round the hearth looked at each other, and evidently
thought she manifested very heathenish taste. Cornelia smiled, and
leaned back with an expression of pleasure which very rarely lighted
her face.

"You are shockingly selfish and exacting," said Antoinette, curling
her long ringlets over her pretty fingers and looking very
bewitching. Her cousin eyed her in silence, and not particularly
relishing her daughter's keen look Mrs. Graham rose, kissed her
forehead, and said gently:

"My love, the Vincents, and Thorntons. and Hendersons all sent to
inquire after you this morning. Netta and I must go down now and
prepare for our tableaux. I leave you in good hands. Miss Benton is
considered an admirable nurse, I believe."

"Mother, where is Eugene?"

"I really do not know. Do you, Mr. Graham?"

"He has gone to the hotel to see some of his old Heidelberg
friends," answered Netta, examining Beulah's plain merino dress very
minutely as she spoke.

"When he comes home be good enough to tell him that I wish to see
him."

"Very well, my dear." Mrs. Graham left the room, followed by her
husband and niece.

For some time Cornelia sat just as they left her; the diamond
necklace slipped down and lay a glittering heap on the carpet, and
the delicate waxen hands drooped listlessly over the arms of the
chair. Her profile was toward Beulah, who stood looking at the
regular, beautiful features, and wondering how (with so many
elements of happiness in her home) she could seem so discontented.
She was thinking, too, that there was a certain amount of truth in
that persecuted and ignored dictum, "A man only sees that which he
brings with him the power of seeing," when Cornelia raised herself,
and, turning her head to look for her companion, said slowly:

"Where are you? Do you believe in the Emersonian 'law of
compensation,' rigid and inevitable as fate? I say, Beulah, do you
believe it?"

"Yes; I believe it."

"Hand me the volume there on the table. His exposition of 'the
absolute balance of Give and Take, the doctrine that everything has
its price,' is the grandest triumph of his genius. For an hour this
sentence has been ringing in my ears: 'In the nature of the soul is
the compensation for the inequalities of condition.' We are samples
of the truth of this. Ah, Beulah, I have paid a heavy, heavy price!
You are destitute of one, it is true, but exempt from the other.
Yet, mark you, this law of 'compensation' pertains solely to earth
and its denizens; the very existence and operation of the law
precludes the necessity, and I may say the possibility, of that
future state, designed, as theologians argue, for rewards and
punishments." She watched her visitor very closely.

"Of course it nullifies the belief in future adjustments, for he
says emphatically, 'Justice is not postponed. A perfect equity
adjusts its balance in all parts of life.' 'What will you have? Pay
for it, and take it. Nothing venture, nothing have.' There is no
obscurity whatever in that remarkable essay on compensation." Beulah
took up one of the volumes, and turned the pages carelessly.

"But all this would shock a Christian."

"And deservedly; for Emerson's works, collectively and individually,
are aimed at the doctrines of Christianity. There is a grim,
terrible fatalism scowling on his pages which might well frighten
the reader who clasped the Bible to his heart."

"Yet you accept his 'compensation.' Are you prepared to receive his
deistic system?" Cornelia leaned forward and spoke eagerly. Beulah
smiled.

"Why strive to cloak the truth? I should not term his fragmentary
system 'deistic.' He knows not yet what he believes. There are
singular antagonisms existing among even his pet theories."

"I have not found any," replied Cornelia, with a gesture of
impatience.

"Then you have not studied his works as closely as I have done. In
one place he tells you he feels 'the eternity of man, the identity
of his thought,' that Plato's truth and Pindar's fire belong as much
to him as to the ancient Greeks, and on the opposite page, if I
remember aright, he says, 'Rare extravagant spirits come by us at
intervals, who disclose to us new facts in nature. I see that men of
God have, from time to time, walked among men, and made their
commission felt in the heart and soul of the commonest hearer.
Hence, evidently the tripod, the priest, the priestess, inspired by
the divine afflatus.' Thus at one moment he finds no 'antiquity in
the worships of Moses, of Zoroaster, of Menu, or Socrates; they are
as much his as theirs,' and at another clearly asserts that spirits
do come into the world to discover to us new truths. At some points
we are told that the cycles of time reproduce all things; at others,
this theory is denied. Again, in 'Self-Reliance,' he says,' Trust
thyself; insist on yourself; obey thy heart, and thou shalt
reproduce the foreworld again.' All this was very comforting to me,
Cornelia; self-reliance was the great secret of success and
happiness; but I chanced to read the 'Over-soul' soon after, and lo!
these words: 'I am constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher
origin for events than the will I call mine.' This was directly
antagonistic to the entire spirit of 'self-reliance'; but I read on,
and soon found the last sentence utterly nullified by one which
declared positively 'that the Highest dwells with man; the sources
of nature are in his own mind.' Sometimes we are informed that our
souls are self-existing and all-powerful; an incarnation of the
divine and universal, and, before we fairly digest this tremendous
statement, he coolly asserts that there is, above all, an 'over-
soul,' whose inevitable decrees upset our plans, and 'overpower
private will.' Cognizant of these palpable contradictions, Emerson
boldly avows and defends them, by declaring that 'A foolish
consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. With consistency a
great soul has simply nothing to do. Speak what you think now in
hard words; and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words
again, though it contradict everything you said to-day. Why should
you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of
your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or
that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself?' His
writings are, to me, like heaps of broken glass, beautiful in the
individual crystal, sparkling and often dazzling, but gather them up
and try to fit them into a whole, and the jagged edges refuse to
unite. Certainly, Cornelia, you are not an Emersonian." Her deep,
quiet eyes looked full into those of the invalid.

"Yes, I am. I believe in that fatalism which he shrouds under the
gauze of an 'Over-soul,'" replied Cornelia impressively.

"Then you are a fair sample of the fallacy of his system, if the
disjointed bits of logic deserve the name."

"How so?"

"He continually exhorts to a happy, contented, and uncomplaining
frame of mind; tells you sternly that 'Discontent is the want of
self-reliance; it is infirmity of will.'"

"You are disposed to be severe," muttered Cornelia, with an angry
flash.

"What? because I expect his professed disciple to obey his
injunctions?"

"Do you, then, conform so irreproachably to your own creed? Pray,
what is it?"

"I have no creed. I am honestly and anxiously hunting one. For a
long time I thought that I had found a sound one in Emerson. But a
careful study of his writings taught me that of all Pyrrhonists he
is the prince. Can a creedless soul aid me in my search? Verily, no.
He exclaims, 'To fill the hour--that is happiness; to fill the hour,
and leave no crevice for repentance or an approval. We live amid
surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.' Now
this sort of oyster existence does not suit me, Cornelia Graham, nor
will it suit you."

"You do him injustice. He has a creed (true, it is pantheistic),
which he steadfastly adheres to under all circumstances."

"Oh, has he! indeed? Then he flatly contradicts you when he says,
'But lest I should mislead any, when I have my own head, and obey my
whims, let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do
not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what
I do not, as if I pretended to settle anything as true or false. I
unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane. I
simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no past at my back.' To
my fancy that savors strongly of nihilism, as regards creeds."

"There is no such passage in Emerson!" cried Cornelia, stamping one
foot, unconsciously, on her blazing necklace.

"Yes, the passage is, word for word, as I quoted it, and you will
find it in 'Circles.'"

"I have read 'Circles' several times, and do not remember it. At all
events, it does not sound like Emerson."

"For that matter, his own individual circle of ideas is so much like
St. Augustine's Circle, of which the center is everywhere and the
circumference nowhere,' that I am not prepared to say what may or
may not be found within it. You will ultimately think with me that,
though an earnest and profound thinker, your master is no Memnon,
waking only before the sunlight of truth. His utterances are dim and
contradictory."

She replaced the book on the table, and, taking up a small basket,
resumed her sewing.

"But, Beulah, did you not accept his 'Law of Compensation'?"

"I believe its operations are correct as regards mere social
position--wealth, penury, even the endowments of genius. But further
than this I do not accept it. I want to believe that my soul is
immortal. Emerson's 'Duration of the Attributes of the Soul' does
not satisfy me. I desire something more than an immutability, or
continued existence hereafter, in the form of an abstract idea of
truth, justice, love, or humility."

Cornelia looked at her steadily, and, after a pause, said with
indescribable bitterness and despair:

"If our past and present shadows the future, I hope that my last
sleep may be unbroken and eternal."

Beulah raised her head and glanced searchingly at her companion;
then silently went on with her work.

"I understand your honest face. You think I have no cause to talk
so. You see me surrounded by wealth,--petted, indulged in every
whim,--and you fancy that I am a very enviable woman; but--"

"There you entirely mistake me," interrupted Beulah, with a cold
smile.

"You think that I ought to be very happy and contented, and useful
in the sphere in which I move; and regard me, I know, as a weak
hypochondriac. Beulah, physicians told me, long ago, that I lived
upon the very brink of the grave; that I might die at any moment,
without warning. My grandmother and one of my uncles died suddenly
with this disease of the heart, and the shadow of death seems
continually around me; it will not be dispelled--it haunts me
forever. 'Boast not thyself of to-morrow,' said the preacher; but I
cannot even boast of to-day, or this hour. The world knows nothing
of this; it has been carefully concealed by my parents; but I know
it! and, Beulah, I feel as did that miserable, doomed prisoner of
Poe's 'Pit and Pendulum,' who saw the pendulum, slowly but surely,
sweeping down upon him. My life has been a great unfulfilled
promise. With what are generally considered elements of happiness in
my home, I have always been solitary and unsatisfied. Conscious of
my feeble tenure on life, I early set out to anchor myself in a calm
faith which would secure me a happy lot in eternity. My nature was
strongly religious, and I longed to find hope and consolation in
some of our churches. My parents always had a pew in the fashionable
church in this city. You need not smile--I speak advisedly when I
say 'fashionable' church; for, assuredly, fashion has crept into
religion also, nowadays. From my childhood I was regularly dressed
and taken to church; but I soon began to question the sincerity of
the pastor and the consistency of the members. Sunday after Sunday I
saw them in their pews, and week after week listened to their
gossiping, slanderous chit-chat. Prominent members busied themselves
about charitable associations, and headed subscription lists, and
all the while set examples of frivolity, heartlessness, and what is
softly termed 'fashionable excesses,' which shocked my ideas of
Christian propriety and disgusted me with the mockery their lives
presented. I watched the minister in his social relations, and,
instead of reverencing him as a meek and holy man of God, I could
not forbear looking with utter contempt upon his pompous, self-
sufficient demeanor toward the mass of his flock; while to the most
opulent and influential members he bowed down, with a servile,
fawning sycophancy absolutely disgusting. I attended various
churches, listening to sermons, and watching the conduct of the
prominent professing Christians of each. Many gave most liberally to
so-called religious causes and institutions, and made amends by
heavily draining the purses of widows and orphans. Some affected an
ascetical simplicity of dress, and yet hugged their purses where
their Bibles should have been. It was all Mammon worship; some
grossly palpable, some adroitly cloaked under solemn faces and
severe observance of the outward ceremonials. The clergy, as a
class, I found strangely unlike what I had expected. Instead of
earnest zeal for the promotion of Christianity, I saw that the
majority were bent only on the aggrandizement of their particular
denomination. Verily, I thought in my heart, 'Is all this bickering
the result of their religion? How these churches do hate each
other!' According to each, salvation could only be found in their
special tenets--within the pale of their peculiar organization; and
yet, all professed to draw their doctrines from the same book; and,
Beulah, the end of my search was that I scorned all creeds and
churches, and began to find a faith outside of a revelation which
gave rise to so much narrow-minded bigotry--so much pharisaism and
delusion. Those who call themselves ministers of the Christian
religion should look well to their commissions, and beware how they
go out into the world, unless the seal of Jesus be indeed upon their
brows. They offer themselves as the Pharos of the people, but ah!
they sometimes wreck immortal souls by their unpardonable
inconsistencies. For the last two years I have been groping my way
after some system upon which I could rest the little time I have to
live. Oh, I am heartsick and despairing!"

"What? already! Take courage, Cornelia; there is truth somewhere,"
answered Beulah, with kindling eyes.

"Where, where? Ah! that echo mocks you, turn which way you will. I
sit like Raphael-Aben-Ezra--at the 'Bottom of the Abyss,' but,
unlike him, I am no Democritus to jest over my position. I am too
miserable to laugh, and my grim Emersonian fatalism gives me
precious little comfort, though it is about the only thing that I do
firmly believe in."

She stooped to pick up her necklace, shook it in the glow of the
fire until a shower of rainbow hues flashed out, and, holding it up,
asked contemptuously:

"What do you suppose this piece of extravagance cost?"

"I have no idea."

"Why, fifteen hundred dollars--that is all! Oh, what is the blaze of
diamonds to a soul like mine, shrouded in despairing darkness, and
hovering upon the very confines of eternity, if there be any!" She
threw the costly gift on the table and wearily closed her eyes.

"You have become discouraged too soon, Cornelia. Your very anxiety
to discover truth evinces its existence, for Nature always supplies
the wants she creates!"

"You will tell me that this truth is to be found down in the depths
of my own soul; for, no more than logic, has it ever been discovered
'parceled and labeled.' But how do I know that all truth is not
merely subjective? Ages ago, skepticism intrenched itself in an
impregnable fortress: 'There is no criterion of truth.' How do I
know that my 'true,' 'good,' and 'beautiful' are absolutely so? My
reason is no infallible plummet to sound the sea of phenomena and
touch noumena. I tell you, Beulah, it is all--"

A hasty rap at the door cut short this discussion, and, as Eugene
entered, the cloud on Cornelia's brow instantly lifted. His gay
Christmas greeting and sunny, handsome face diverted her mind, and,
as her hand rested on his arm, her countenance evinced a degree of
intense love such as Beulah had supposed her incapable of feeling.

"It is very selfish, sister mine, to keep Beulah so constantly
beside you, when we all want to see something of her."

"Was I ever anything else but selfish?"

"But I thought you prided yourself on requiring no society?"

"So I do, as regards society in general; but Beulah is an
exception."

"You intend to come down to-night, do you not?"

"Not if I can avoid it. Eugene, take Beulah into the parlor, and ask
Antoinette to sing. Afterward make Beulah sing, also, and be sure to
leave all the doors open, so that I can hear. Mind, you must not
detain her long."

Beulah would have demurred, but at this moment she saw Dr.
Hartwell's buggy approaching the house. Her heart seemed to spring
to her lips, and, feeling that after their last unsatisfactory
interview she was in no mood to meet him, she quickly descended the
steps, so blinded by haste that she failed to perceive the hand
Eugene extended to assist her. The door-bell uttered a sharp peal as
they reached the hall, and she had just time to escape into the
parlor when the doctor was ushered in.

"What is the matter?" asked Eugene, observing the nervous flutter of
her lips.

"Ask Miss Dupres to sing, will you?"

He looked at her curiously an instant, then turned away and
persuaded the little beauty to sing.

She took her seat, and ran her jeweled fingers over the pearl keys
with an air which very clearly denoted her opinion, of her musical
proficiency.

"Well, sir, what will you have?"

"That favorite morceau from 'Linda.'"

"You have never heard it, I suppose," said she, glancing over her
shoulder at the young teacher.

"Yes; I have heard it," answered Beulah, who could with difficulty
repress a smile.

Antoinette half shrugged her shoulders, as if she thought the
statement questionable, and began the song. Beulah listened
attentively; she was conscious of feeling more than ordinary
interest in this performance, and almost held her breath as the
clear, silvery voice caroled through the most intricate passages.
Antoinette had been thoroughly trained, and certainly her voice was
remarkably sweet and flexible; but as she concluded the piece and
fixed her eyes complacently on Beulah, the latter lifted her head in
proud consciousness of superiority.

"Sing me something else," said she.

Antoinette bit her lips, and answered ungraciously:

"No; I shall have to sing to-night, and can't wear myself out."

"Now, Beulah, I shall hear you. I have sought an opportunity ever
since I returned." Eugene spoke rather carelessly.

"Do you really wish to hear me, Eugene?"

"Of course I do," said he, with some surprise.

"And so do I," added Mrs. Graham, leaning against the piano, and
exchanging glances with Antoinette.

Beulah looked up, and asked quietly:

"Eugene, shall I sing you a ballad? One of those simple old tunes we
used to love so well in days gone by."

"No, no. Something operatic!" cried Antoinette, without giving him
an opportunity to reply.

"Well, then, Miss Dupres; select something."

"Can't you favor us with 'Casta-Diva'?" returned the beauty,--with
something very like a sneer.

Beulah's eyes gave a momentary flash; but by a powerful effort she
curbed her anger and commenced the song.

It was amusing to mark the expression of utter astonishment which
gradually overspread Antoinette's face, as the magnificent voice of
her despised rival swelled in waves of entrancing melody through the
lofty rooms. Eugene looked quite as much amazed. Beulah felt her
triumph, and heartily enjoyed it. There was a sparkle in her eye and
a proud smile on her lip, which she did not attempt to conceal. As
she rose from the piano, Eugene caught her hand, and said eagerly:

"I never dreamed of your possessing such a voice. It is superb--
perfectly magnificent! Why did not you tell me of it before?"

"You heard it long ago, in the olden time," said she, withdrawing
her hand and looking steadily at him.

"Ah, but it has improved incredibly. You were all untutored then."

"It is the culture, then, not the voice itself? Eh, Eugene?"

"It is both. Who taught you?"

"I had several teachers, but owe what excellence I may possess to my
guardian. He aided me more than all the instruction books that ever
were compiled."

"You must come and practice with the musical people who meet here
very frequently," said Mrs. Graham.

"Thank you, madam; I have other engagements which will prevent my
doing so."

"Nonsense, Beulah; we have claims on you. I certainly have,"
answered Eugene.

"Have you? I was not aware of the fact."

There was a patronizing manner in all this which she felt no
disposition to submit to.

"Most assuredly I have, Beulah; and mean to maintain them."

She perfectly understand the haughty expression of his countenance,
and, moving toward the door, replied coldly:

"Another time, Eugene, we will discuss them."

"Where are you going?" inquired Mrs. Graham rather stiffly.

"To Cornelia. The doctor came down a few minutes since."

She did not pause to hear what followed, but ran up the steps,
longing to get out of a house where she plainly perceived her
presence was by no means desired. Cornelia sat with her head drooped
on her thin hand, and, without looking up, said, more gently than
was her custom:

"Why did you hurry back so soon?"

"Because the parlor was not particularly attractive."

There came the first good-humored laugh which Beulah had ever heard
from Cornelia's lips, as the latter replied:

"What friends you and old growling Diogenes would have been! Pray,
how did my cousin receive your performance!"

"Very much as if she wished me amid the ruins of Persepolis, where I
certainly shall be before I inflict anything more upon her.
Cornelia, do not ask or expect me to come here again, for I will
not; of course, it is quite as palpable to you as to me that I am no
favorite with your parents, and something still less with your
cousin. Consequently, you need not expect to see me here again."

"Do not say so, Beulah; you must, you shall come, and I will see
that no one dares interfere with my wishes. As for Antoinette, she
is simply a vain idiot; you might just as well be told the truth,
for doubtless you will see it for yourself. She is my mother's
niece, an only child, and possessed of considerable wealth. I
suppose it is rather natural that my parents should fondle the idea
of her being Eugene's wife. They do not see how utterly unsuited
they are. Eugene will, of course, inherit the fortune which I once
imagined I should have the pleasure of squandering. My father and
mother dread lest Eugene should return to his 'boyish fancy' (as you
are pleased to term it), and look on you with jealous eyes. Oh,
Mammon is the God of this generation. But, Beulah, you must not
allow all this miserable maneuvering to keep you from me. If you do,
I will very soon succeed in making this home of mine very unpleasant
for Antoinette Dupres. When I am dead she can wheedle my family as
successfully as they choose to permit; but while I do live she shall
forbear. Poor, contemptible human nature! Verily, I rejoice
sometimes when I remember that I shall not be burdened with any of
it long." An angry spot burned on each pallid cheek, and the
beautiful mouth curled scornfully.

"Do not excite yourself so unnecessarily, Cornelia. What you may or
may not think of your relatives is no concern of mine. You have a
carriage always at your command, and when you desire to see a real
friend, you can visit me. Let this suffice for this subject. Suppose
we have a game of chess or backgammon? What do you say?"

She wheeled a light table toward the hearth; but the invalid
motioned it away, and answered moodily:

"I am in no humor for games. Sit down and tell me about your leaving
Dr. Hartwell's protection."

"I have nothing to tell."

"He is a singular being?"

Receiving no answer, she added impatiently:

"Don't you think so?"

"I do, in the sense of great superiority."

"The world is not so flattering in its estimate."

"No; for slander loves a lofty mark."

"Beulah Benton, do you mean that for me?"

"Not unless you feel that it applies to you particularly."

"If he is so faultless and unequaled, pray, why did not you remain
in his house?"

"I am not in the habit of accounting to anyone for my motives or my
actions." She lifted her slender form haughtily.

"In which case the public has a habit of supplying both."

"Then accept its fabrications."

"You need not be so fierce. I like Dr. Hartwell quite as well as you
do, I dare say; but probably I know more of his history."

"It is all immaterial to me. Drop the subject, if you please, and
let me read to you. I believe I came here for quiet companionship,
not recrimination and cross-questioning."

"Beulah, the world says you are to marry your guardian. I do not ask
from impertinent curiosity, but sincere friendship--is it true?"

"About as true as your notion of my marriage with Eugene. No;
scarcely so plausible."

"Our families were connected, you know."

"No; I neither know, nor wish to know. He never alluded to his wife,
or his history, and I have just now no desire to hear anything about
the matter. He is the best friend I ever had; I want to honor and
reverence him always; and, of course, the world's version of his
domestic affairs does him injustice. So be good enough to say no
more about him."

"Very well. On hearing your voice from the parlor he left a small
parcel, which he requested me to give you. He laid it on the table,
I believe; yes, there it is. Now read 'Egmont' to me, if you
please."

Cornelia crossed the room, threw herself on a couch, and settled her
pillow comfortably. Beulah took the parcel, which was carefully
sealed, and wondered what it contained. It was heavy and felt hard.
They had parted in anger; what could it possibly be? Cornelia's
black eyes were on her countenance. She put the package in her
pocket, seated herself by the couch, and commenced "Egmont." It was
with a feeling of indescribable relief that the orphan awoke, at
dawn the following morning, and dressed by the gray twilight. She
had fallen asleep the night before amid the hum of voices, of
laughter, and of dancing feet. Sounds of gayety, from the merry
party below, had found their way to the chamber of the heiress, and
when Beulah left her at midnight she was still wakeful and restless.
The young teacher could not wait for the late breakfast of the
luxurious Grahams, and, just as the first level ray of sunshine
flashed up from the east, she tied on her bonnet and noiselessly
entered Cornelia's room. The heavy curtains kept it close and dark,
and on the hearth a taper burned with pale, sickly light. Cornelia
slept soundly; but her breathing was heavy and irregular, and the
face wore a scowl, as if some severe pain had distorted it. The
ivory-like arms were thrown up over the head, and large drops
glistened on the wan brow. Beulah stood beside the bed a few
minutes; the apartment was furnished with almost Oriental splendor;
but how all this satin, and rosewood, and silver, and marble mocked
the restless, suffering sleeper! Beulah felt tears of compassion
weighing down her lashes, as she watched the haggard countenance of
this petted child of fortune; but, unwilling to rouse her, she
silently stole down the steps. The hall was dark; the smell of gas
almost stifling. Of course, the servants followed the example of
their owners, and, as no one appeared, she unlocked the street door,
and walked homeward with a sensation of pleasurable relief which
impressed itself very legibly on her face. The sky was cloudless;
the early risen run looked over the earth in dazzling radiance; and
the cold, pure, wintry air made the blood tingle in Beulah's veins.
A great, unspeakable joy filled her soul; the uplifted eyes beamed
with gladness; her brave, hopeful spirit looked into the future with
unquestioning trust; and, as the image of her unhappy friend flitted
across her mind, she exclaimed:

"This world is lull of beauty, like other worlds above, And if we
did our duty, it might be full of loe."

She ran up to her room, threw open the blinds, looped back the
curtains, and drew that mysterious package from her pocket. She was
very curious to see the contents, and broke the seal with trembling
fingers. The outer wrappings fell off, and disclosed an oblong,
papier-mache case. It opened with a spring, and revealed to her a
beautiful watch and chain, bearing her name in delicate tracery. A
folded slip of paper lay on the crimson velvet lining of the box,
and, recognizing the characters, she hastily read this brief
sentence:

"Wear it constantly, Beulah, to remind you that, in adversity, you
still have

"A GUARDIAN."

Tears gushed unrestrained, as she looked at the beautiful gift. Not
for an instant did she dream, of accepting it, and she shrank
shudderingly from widening the breach which already existed by a
refusal. Locking up the slip of paper in her workbox, she returned
the watch to its case and carefully retied the parcel. Long before
she had wrapped the purse in paper and prevailed on Clara to give it
to the doctor. He had received it without comment; but she could not
return the watch in the same way, for Clara was now able to attend
regularly to her school duties, and it was very uncertain when she
would see him. Yet she felt comforted, for this gift assured her
that, however coldly he chose to treat her when they met, he had not
thrown her off entirely. With all her independence, she could not
bear the thought of his utter alienation; and the consciousness of
his remaining interest thrilled her heart with gladness.



CHAPTER XXIII.


One Saturday morning, some days subsequent to her visit to the
Grahams, Beulah set off for the business part of the city. She was
closely veiled, and carried under her shawl a thick roll of neatly
written paper. A publishing house was the place of her destination;
and, as she was ushered into a small back room, to await the leisure
of the gentleman she wished to see, she could not forbear smiling at
the novelty of her position and the audacity of the attempt she was
about to make. There she sat in the editor's sanctum, trying to
quiet the tumultuous beating of her heart. Presently a tall, spare
man, with thin, cadaverous visage, entered, bowed, took a chair, and
eyed her with a "what-do-you-want" sort of expression. His grizzled
hair was cut short, and stood up like bristles, and his keen blue
eyes were by no means promising, in their cold glitter. Beulah threw
off her veil and said, with rather an unsteady voice:

"You are the editor of the magazine published here, I believe?"

He bowed again, leaned back in his chair, and crossed his hands at
the back of his head.

"I came to offer you an article for the magazine." She threw down
the roll of paper on a chair.

"Ah!--hem!--will you favor me with your name?"

"Beulah Benton, sir. One altogether unknown to fame."

He contracted his eyes, coughed, and said constrainedly:

"Are you a subscriber?"

"I am."

"What is the character of your manuscript?" He took it up as he
spoke, and glanced over the pages.

"You can determine that from a perusal. If the sketch suits you, I
should like to become a regular contributor."

A gleam of sunshine strayed over the countenance, and the editor
answered, very benignly:

"If the article meets with our approbation, we shall be very happy
to afford you a medium of publication in our journal. Can we depend
on your punctuality?"

"I think so. What are your terms?"

"Terms, madam? I supposed that your contribution was gratuitous,"
said he very loftily.

"Then you are most egregiously mistaken! What do you imagine induces
me to write?"

"Why, desire for fame, I suppose."

"Fame is rather unsatisfactory fare. I am poor, sir, and write to
aid me in maintaining myself."

"Are you dependent solely on your own exertions, madam?"

"Yes."

"I am sorry I cannot aid you; but nowadays there are plenty of
authors who write merely as a pastime, and we have as many
contributions as we can well look over."

"I am to understand, then, that the magazine is supported altogether
by gratuitous contributions?" said Beulah, unable to repress a
smile.

"Why, you see, authorship has become a sort of luxury," was the
hesitating reply.

"I think the last number of your magazine contained, among other
articles in the 'Editor's Drawer,' an earnest appeal to Southern
authors to come to the rescue of Southern periodicals?"

"True, madam. Southern intellect seems steeped in a lethargy from
which we are most faithfully endeavoring to arouse it."

"The article to which I allude also animadverted severely upon the
practice of Southern authors patronizing Northern publishing
establishments?"

"Most certainly it treated the subject stringently." He moved
uneasily.

"I believe the subscription is the same as that of the Northern
periodicals?"

A very cold bow was the only answer.

"I happen to know that Northern magazines are not composed of
gratuitous contributions; and it is no mystery why Southern authors
are driven to Northern publishers. Southern periodicals are mediums
only for those of elegant leisure, who can afford to write without
remuneration. With the same subscription price, you cannot pay for
your articles. It is no marvel that, under such circumstances, we
have no Southern literature. Unluckily, I belong to the numerous
class who have to look away from home for remuneration. Sir, I will
not trouble you with my manuscript." Rising, she held out her hand
for it; but the keen eyes had fallen upon a paragraph which seemed
to interest the editor, and, knitting his brows, he said
reluctantly:

"We have not been in the habit of paying for our articles; but I
will look over this, and perhaps you can make it worth our while to
pay you. The fact is, madam, we have more trash sent us than we can
find room for; but if you can contribute anything of weight, why, it
will make a difference, of course. I did not recognize you at first,
but I now remember that I heard your valedictory to the graduating
class of the public schools. If we should conclude to pay you for
regular contributions, we wish nothing said about it."

"Very well. If you like the manuscript, and decide to pay me, you
can address me a note through the post office. Should I write for
the magazine I particularly desire not to be known." She lowered her
veil, and most politely he bowed her out.

She was accustomed to spend a portion of each Saturday in practicing
duets with Georgia Asbury, and thither she now directed her steps.
Unluckily, the parlor was full of visitors, and, without seeing any
of the family, she walked back into the music room. Here she felt
perfectly at home, and, closing the door, forgot everything but her
music. Taking no heed of the lapse of time, she played piece after
piece, until startled by the clear tones of the doctor's voice. She
looked up, and saw him standing in the door which opened into the
library, taking off his greatcoat.

"Why Beulah, that room is as cold as a Texas norther! What on earth
are you doing there without a fire? Come in here, child, and warm
your frozen digits. Where are those two harum-scarum specimens of
mine?"

"I believe they are still entertaining company, sir. The parlor was
full when I came, and they know nothing of my being here." She sat
down by the bright fire, and held her stiff fingers toward the
glowing coals.

"Yes, confound their dear rattlepates; that is about the sum-total
of their cogitations." He drew up his chair, put his feet on the
fender of the grate, and, lighting his cigar, added:

"Is my spouse also in the parlor?"

"I suppose so, sir."

"Time was, Beulah, when Saturday was the great day of preparation
for all housekeepers. Bless my soul! My mother would just about as
soon have thought of anticipating the discovery of the open Polar
Sea, by a trip thither, as going out to visit on Saturday. Why, from
my boyhood, Saturday has been synonymous with scouring, window
washing, pastry baking, stocking darning, and numerous other
venerable customs, which this age is rapidly dispensing with. My
wife had a lingering reverence for the duties of the day, and tried
to excuse herself, but I suppose those pretty wax dolls of mine have
coaxed her into 'receiving,' as they call it. Beulah, my wife is an
exception; but the mass of married women nowadays, instead of being
thorough housewives (as nature intended they should), are delicate,
do-nothing, know-nothing, fine ladies. They have no duties. 'O
tempora, O mores!'" He paused to relight his cigar, and, just then,
Georgia came in, dressed very richly. He tossed the taper into the
grate, and exclaimed, as she threw her arms round his neck and
kissed him:

"You pretty imp; what is to pay now? Here Beulah has been sitting,
nobody knows how long, in that frigid zone you call your music room.
What are you rigged out in all that finery for?"

"We are going to dine out to-day, father. Beulah will excuse me, I
know."

"Indeed! Dine where?"

"Mrs. Delmont came round this morning to invite us to dine with some
of her young friends from New Orleans."

"Well, I shan't go, that is all."

"Oh, you are not expected, sir," laughed Georgia, brushing the gray
locks from his ample forehead.

"Not expected, eh? Does your lady mother contemplate leaving me to
discuss my dinner in doleful solitude?"

"No, mother has gone with Mrs. Rallston to see about some poor,
starving family in the suburbs. She will be back soon, I dare say.
Mrs. Delmont has sent her carriage, and Helen is waiting for me; so
I must go. Beulah, I am very sorry, we have been cut out of our
practicing. Don't go home; stay with mother to-day, and when I come
back we will have a glorious time. Can't you now? There's a
darling."

"Oh, you wheedling, hypocritical madcap, take yourself off! Of
course Beulah will try to endure the stupid talk of a poor old man,
whose daughters are too fashionable to look after him, and whose
wife is so extremely charitable that she forgets it 'begins at
home.' Clear out, you trial of paternal patience!" He kissed her
rosy lips, and she hurried away, protesting that she would much
prefer remaining at home.

"Beulah, I gave Hartwell that parcel you intrusted to me. He looked
just as if I had plunged him into a snow-bank, but said nothing."

"Thank you, sir."

"Oh, don't thank me for playing go-between. I don't relish any such
work. It is very evident that you two have quarreled. I would about
as soon consult that poker as ask Hartwell what is to pay. Now,
child, what is the matter?"

"Nothing new, sir. He has never forgiven me for turning teacher."

"Forgiven! Bless me, he is as spiteful as a Pequod!"

"Begging your pardon, Dr. Asbury, he is no such thing!" cried Beulah
impetuously.

"Just what I might have expected. I am to understand, then, that you
can abuse my partner sufficiently without any vituperative
assistance from me?" He brushed the ashes from his cigar, and looked
at her quizzically.

"Sir, it pains me to hear him spoken of so lightly."

"Lightly! Upon my word, I thought Indianic malice was rather a heavy
charge. However, I can succeed better if you will allow--"

"Don't jest, sir. Please say no more about him."

His face became instantly grave, and he answered earnestly:

"Beulah, as a sincere friend, I would advise you not to alienate
Hartwell. There are very few such men; I do not know his equal. He
is interested in your welfare and happiness, and is the best friend
you ever had or ever will have."

"I know it, and prize his friendship above all others."

"Then why did you return that watch? If he wished you to wear it,
why should you refuse? Mark me, he said nothing about it to me; but
I saw the watch, with your name engraved on the case, at the jewelry
store where I bought one just like it for Georgia. I surmised it was
that same watch, when you intrusted the package to me."

"I was already greatly indebted to him, and did not wish to increase
the obligation."

"My child, under the circumstances, you were too fastidious. He was
very much annoyed; though, as I told you before, he made no allusion
to the subject."

"Yes; I knew he would be, and I am very sorry, but could not think
of accepting it."

"Oh, you are well matched, upon my word!"

"What do you mean?"

"That you are both as proud as Lucifer and as savage as heathens.
Child, I don't see what is to become of you."

"Every soul is the star of its own destiny," answered Beulah.

"Well, very sorry destinies the majority make, I can tell you. Have
you seen Mrs. Lockhart and Pauline?"

"No. I was not aware that they were in the city."

"Lockhart's health is miserable. They are all at Hartwell's for a
few weeks, I believe. Pauline has grown up a perfect Di Vernon
beauty."

"I should like very much to see her. She is a generous, noble-souled
girl."

"Yes; I rather think she is. Hartwell said the other day that
Pauline was anxious to see you; and, since I think of it, I believe
he asked me to tell you of her arrival. Now, I will wager my head
that you intend to wait until she calls formally, which it is your
place to do."

"Then, sir, expect immediate decapitation, for I shall go out to see
her this very afternoon," replied Beulah.

"That is right, my dear child."

"Dr. Asbury, if you will not think me troublesome, I should like to
tell you of some things that perplex me very much," said she
hesitatingly.

"I shall be glad to hear whatever you have to say, and if I can
possibly help you, rest assured I will. What perplexes you?"

"A great many things, sir. Of late, I have read several works that
have unsettled my former faith, and, indeed, confused and darkened
my mind most miserably, and I thought you might aid me in my search
after truth."

He threw his cigar into the fire, and, while an expression of sorrow
clouded his face, said, very gravely:

"Beulah, I am afraid I am one of the last persons to whom you should
apply for assistance. Do the perplexities to which you allude
involve religious questions?"

"Yes, sir; almost entirely."

"I am too unsettled myself to presume to direct others."

Beulah looked up in unfeigned astonishment.

"You certainly are not what is termed skeptical?"

"Most sincerely do I wish that I was not."

There was a short silence, broken by Beulah's saying, slowly and
sorrowfully:

"You cannot aid me, then!"

"I am afraid not. When a young man I was thoroughly skeptical in my
religious views (if I may be said to have had any). At the time of
my marriage I was an infidel, and such the world still calls me. If
I am not now, it is because my wife's unpretending consistent piety
has taught me to revere the precepts of a revelation which I long
ago rejected. Her pure religion makes me respect Christianity, which
once I sneered at. I am forced to acknowledge the happy results of
her faith, and I may yet be brought to yield up old prejudices and
confess its divine origin. I am no atheist, thank God! never have
been. But I tell you candidly, my doubts concerning the Bible make
me an unsafe guide for a mind like yours. For some time I have
marked the course of your reading, by the books I missed from my
shelves, and have feared just what has happened. On one point my
experience may be of value to you. What is comprised under the head
of philosophical research will never aid or satisfy you. I am an old
man, Beulah, and have studied philosophic works for many years; but,
take my word for it, the mass of them are sheer humbug. From the
beginning of the world philosophers have been investigating the
countless mysteries which present themselves to every earnest mind;
but the arcana are as inscrutable now as ever. I do not wish to
discourage you, Beulah; nor do I desire to underrate human
capabilities; but, in all candor, this kind of study does not pay.
It has not repaid me--it has not satisfied Hartwell, who went deeper
into metaphysics than anyone I know, and who now has less belief of
any sort than anyone I ever wish to know. I would not advise you to
prosecute this branch of study. I am content to acknowledge that of
many things I know nothing, and never can be any wiser; but Guy
Hartwell is too proud to admit his incapacity to grapple with some
of these mysteries. Beulah, my wife is one of the happiest spirits I
ever knew; she is a consistent Christian. When we were married, I
watched her very closely. I tell you, child, I hoped very much that
I should find some glaring incongruity in her conduct which would
have sanctioned my skepticism. I was continually on the lookout for
defects of character that might cast contempt on the religion she
professed. I did not expect her to prove so pure-hearted,
unselfish, humble, and genuinely pious as I found her. I do most
sincerely revere such religion as hers. Ah! if it were not so rare I
should never have been so skeptical. She has taught me that the
precepts of the Bible do regulate the heart and purify the life; and
to you, child, I will say, candidly, 'Almost she has persuaded me to
be a Christian.' Whatever of--"

He said no more, for at this moment the door opened, and Mrs. Asbury
entered. She welcomed Beulah with a cordial sincerity, singularly
soothing to the orphan's heart, and, keeping her hand in a tight
clasp, asked several questions, which her husband cut short by
drawing her to his side.

"Where have you been straying to, madam?"

"Where you must stray to, sir, just as soon as you start out this
evening on your round of visits."

She softly smoothed back his hair and kissed his forehead. She was a
noble-looking woman, with a tranquil countenance that betokened a
serene, cloudless soul; and as she stood beside her husband, his
eyes rested on her face with an expression bordering on adoration.
Beulah could not avoid wondering why such women were so very rare,
and the thought presented itself with painful force, "If Cornelia
Graham and I had had such mothers, we might both have been happier
and better." Probably something of what crossed her mind crept into
her countenance, for the doctor asked laughingly:

"In the name of Venus! what are you screwing up your lips and
looking so ugly about?"

"I suppose one reason is that I must go home." She rose, with a
suppressed sigh.

"I am disposed to think it much more probable that you were envying
me my wife. Come, confess."

"I was wishing that I had such a mother."

With some sudden impulse she threw her arms round Mrs. Asbury's
neck, and hid her face on her shoulder.

"Then let me be your mother, my dear child," said she, pressing the
girl affectionately to her heart and kissing her pale cheek.

"Are you troubled about anything, my dear?" continued Mrs. Asbury,
surprised at this manifestation of feeling in one usually so cold
and reserved.

"An orphan heart mourns its dead idols," answered Beulah, raising
her hand and withdrawing from the kind arm that encircled her. Mrs.
Asbury interpreted a quick glance from her husband, and did not
press the matter further; but, at parting, she accompanied Beulah to
the front door, and earnestly assured her that if she could in any
way advise or assist her she would consider it both a privilege and
a pleasure to do so. Returning to the library, she laid her soft
hand on her husband's arm, and said anxiously:

"George, what is the matter with her?"

"She is distressed, or, rather, perplexed, about her religious
doubts, I inferred from what she said just before you came in. She
has drifted out into a troubled sea of philosophy, I am inclined to
think, and, not satisfied with what she has found, is now irresolute
as to the proper course. Poor child, she is terribly in earnest
about the matter." He sighed heavily.

His wife watched him eagerly.

"What did you tell her?"

"Not to come to me; that it would be a perfect exemplification of
'the blind leading the blind'; and when she learned my own state of
uncertainty, she seemed to think so herself."

An expression of acute pain passed over her features; but, banishing
it as speedily as possible, she answered very gently:

"Take care, my husband, lest by recapitulating your doubts you
strengthen hers."

"Alice, I told her the whole truth. She is not a nature to be put
off with halfway statements. Hartwell is an avowed infidel, and she
knows it; yet I do not believe his views have weighed with her
against received systems of faith. My dear Alice, this spirit of
skepticism is scattered far and wide over the land; I meet with it
often where I least expect it. It broods like a hideous nightmare
over this age, and Beulah must pass through the same ordeal which is
testing the intellectual portion of every community. But--there is
that eternal door-bell. Let us have dinner, Alice; I must go out
early this afternoon."

He took down a pair of scales and began to weigh some medicine. His
wife wisely forbore to renew the discussion, and, ringing the bell
for dinner, interested him with an account of her visit to a poor
family who required his immediate attention.

With a heart unwontedly heavy Beulah prepared to call upon Pauline,
later in the afternoon of the same day. It was not companionship she
needed, for this was supplied by books, and the sensation of
loneliness was one with which she had not yet been made acquainted;
but she wanted a strong, healthy, cultivated intellect, to dash away
the mists that were wreathing about her own mind. Already the lofty,
imposing structure of self-reliance began to rock to its very
foundations. She was nearly ready for her walk, when Mrs. Hoyt came
in.

"Miss Beulah, there is a lady in the parlor waiting to see you."

"Is it Miss Graham?"

"No. She is a stranger, and gave no name."

Beulah descended to the parlor in rather an ungracious mood. As she
entered a lady sprang to meet her, with both hands extended. She was
superbly beautiful, with a complexion of dazzling whiteness, and
clear, radiant, violet eyes, over which arched delicately penciled
brows. The Grecian mouth and chin were faultlessly chiseled; the
whole face was one of rare loveliness.

"You don't know me! For shame, Beulah, to forget old friends!"

"Oh, Pauline, is it you? I am very glad to see you."

"Don't say that for politeness' sake! Here I have been for ten days
and you have not stirred a foot to see me."

"I didn't know you were in town till this morning, and just as you
came I was putting on my bonnet to go and see you."

"Are you telling the truth?"

"Yes; positively I am."

"Well, I am glad you felt disposed to see me. After my uncle, you
and Charon are all I cared anything about meeting here. Bless your
dear, solemn, gray eyes! how often I have wanted to see you!"

The impulsive girl threw her arms round Beulah's neck, and kissed
her repeatedly.

"Be quiet, and let me look at you. Oh, Pauline, how beautiful you
have grown!" cried Beulah, who could not forbear expressing the
admiration she felt.

"Yes; the artists in Florence raved considerably about ray beauty. I
can't tell you the number of times I sat for my portrait. It is very
pleasant to be pretty; I enjoy it amazingly," said she, with all the
candor which had characterized her in childhood; and, with a
vigorous squeeze of Beulah's hand, she continued:

"I was astonished when I came, and found that you had left Uncle
Guy, and were teaching little ragged, dirty children their A B C's.
What possessed you to do such a silly thing?"

"Duty, my dear Pauline."

"Oh, for Heaven's sake, don't begin about duty. Ernest--" She
paused, a rich glow swept over her face, and, shaking back her
curls, she added:

"You must quit all this. I say you must!"

"I see you are quite as reckless and scatter-brained as ever,"
answered Beulah, smiling at her authoritative tone.

"No; I positively am not the fool Uncle Guy used to think me. I have
more sense than people give me credit for, though I dare say I shall
find you very skeptical on the subject. Beulah, I know very well why
you took it into your wise head to be a teacher. You were unwilling
to usurp what you considered my place in Uncle Guy's home and heart.
You need not straighten yourself in that ungraceful way. I know
perfectly well it is the truth; but I am no poor, suffering, needy
innocent, that you should look after. I am well provided for, and
don't intend to take one cent of Uncle Guy's money, so you might
just as well have the benefit of it. I know, too, that you and ma
did not exactly adore each other. I understand all about that old
skirmishing. But things have changed very much, Beulah; so you must
quit this horrid nonsense about working and being independent."

"How you do rattle on about things you don't comprehend!" laughed
Beulah.

"Come, don't set me down for a simpleton! I tell you I am in
earnest! You must come back to Uncle Guy!"

"Pauline, it is worse than useless to talk of this matter. I decided
long ago as to what I ought to do, and certainly shall not change my
opinion now. Tell me what you saw in Europe."

"Why, has not Eugene told you all you wish to know? Apropos! I saw
him at a party last night, playing the devoted to that little
beauty, Netta Dupres. We were all in Paris at the same time. I don't
fancy her; she is too insufferably vain and affected. It is my
opinion that she is flirting with Eugene, which must be quite
agreeable to you. Oh, I tell you, Beulah, I could easily put her
mind, heart, and soul in my thimble!"

"I did not ask your estimate of Miss Dupres. I want to know
something of your European tour. I see Eugene very rarely."

"Oh, of course we went to see all the sights, and very stupid it
was. Mr. Lockhart scolded continually about my want of taste and
appreciation, because I did not utter all the interjections of
delight and astonishment over old, tumbledown ruins, and genuine
'masterpieces' of art, as he called them. Upon my word, I have been
tired almost to death, when he and ma descanted by the hour on the
'inimitable, and transcendent, and entrancing' beauties and glories
of old pictures, that were actually so black with age that they
looked like daubs of tar, and I could not tell whether the figures
were men or women, archangels or cow drivers. Some things I did
enjoy; such as the Alps, and the Mediterranean, and St. Peter's, and
Westminster Abbey, and some of the German cathedrals. But as to
keeping my finger on the guide-book and committing all the ecstasy
to memory, to spout out just at the exact moment when I saw nothing
to deserve it, why, that is all fudge. I tell you there is nothing
in all Europe equal to our Niagara! I was heartily glad to come
home, though I enjoyed some things amazingly."

"How is Mr. Lockhart's health?"

"Very poor, I am sorry to say. He looks so thin and pale I often
tell him he would make quite as good a pictured saint as any we saw
abroad."

"How long will you remain here?"

"Till Uncle Guy thinks Mr. Lockhart is well enough to go to his
plantation, I suppose."

"What makes you so restless, Pauline? Why don't you sit still?"
asked Beulah, observing that her visitor twisted about as if
uncomfortable.

"Because I want to tell you something, and really do not know how to
begin," said she, laughing and blushing.

"I cannot imagine what should disconcert you, Pauline."

"Thank you. Truly, that is a flattering tribute to my sensibility.
Beulah, can't you guess what I have to tell you?"

"Certainly not. But why should you hesitate to disclose it?"

"Simply because your tremendous gray eyes have such an owlish way of
looking people out of countenance. Now, don't look quite through me,
and I will pluck up my courage, and confess. Beulah--I am going to
be married soon." She hid her crimsoned cheeks behind her hands.

"Married! impossible!" cried Beulah.

"But I tell you I am! Here is my engagement ring. Now, the most
astonishing part of the whole affair is that my intended sovereign
is a minister! A preacher, as solemn as Job!"

"You a minister's wife, Pauline! Oh, child, you are jesting!" said
Beulah, with an incredulous smile.

"No! absurd as it may seem, it is nevertheless true. I am to be
married in March. Ma says I am a fool; Mr. Lockhart encourages and
supports me; and Uncle Guy laughs heartily every time the affair is
alluded to. At first, before we went to Europe, there was violent
opposition from my mother, but she found I was in earnest, and now
it is all settled for March. Uncle Guy knows Ernest Mortimor, and
esteems him very highly, but thinks that I am the last woman in the
United States who ought to be a minister's wife. I believe he told
Ernest as much; but of course he did not believe him."

"Where does Mr. Mortimor reside?"

"In Georgia; has charge of a church there. He had a sister at the
same school I attended in New York; and, during a visit to her, he
says he met his evil-angel in me. He is about five years my senior;
but he is here now, and you will have an opportunity of forming your
own opinion of him."

"How long have you known him?"

"About two years. I am rather afraid of him, to tell you the honest
truth. He is so grave, and has such rigid notions, that I wonder
very much what ever induced his holiness to fancy such a heedless
piece of womanhood as he is obliged to know I am; for I never put on
any humility or sanctity. What do you think, Beulah? Uncle Guy
coolly told me, this morning, in Ernest's presence, that he was only
charmed by my pretty face, and that if I did not learn some common
sense he would very soon repent his choice. Oh, the doleful warnings
I have been favored with! But you shall all see that I am worthy of
Mr. Mortimer's love."

Her beautiful face was radiant with hope; yet in the violet eyes
there lurked unshed tears.

"I am very glad that you are so happy, Pauline; and, if you will, I
am very sure you can make yourself all that Mr. Mortimor could
desire."

"I am resolved I will. Yesterday he talked to me very seriously
about the duties which he said would devolve on me. I tried to laugh
him out of his sober mood, but he would talk about 'pastoral
relations,' and what would be expected of a pastor's wife, until I
was ready to cry with vexation. Ernest is not dependent on his
salary; his father is considered wealthy, I believe, which fact
reconciles ma in some degree. To-morrow he will preach in Dr. Hew's
church, and you must go to hear him. I have never yet heard him
preach, and am rather anxious to know what sort of sermons I am to
listen to for the remainder of my life." She looked at her watch,
and rose.

"I shall certainly go to hear him," answered Beulah.

"Of course you will, and after service you must go home and spend
the day with me. Ma begs that you will not refuse to dine with her;
and, as you are engaged all the week, Uncle Guy expects you also;
that is, he told me to insist on your coming, but thought you would
probably decline. Will you come? Do say yes."

"I don't know yet. I will see you at church."

Thus they parted.



CHAPTER XXIV.


On Sabbath morning Beulah sat beside the window, with her folded
hands resting on her lap. The day was cloudless and serene; the sky
of that intense melting blue which characterizes our clime. From
every quarter of the city brazen muezzins called worshipers to the
temple, and bands of neatly clad, happy children thronged the
streets, on their way to Sabbath school. Save these, and the pealing
bells, a hush pervaded all things, as though Nature were indeed "at
her prayers." Blessed be the hallowed influences which every sunny
Sabbath morn exerts! Blessed be the holy tones which at least once a
week call every erring child back to its Infinite Father! For some
time Beulah had absented herself from church, for she found that
instead of profiting by sermons she came home to criticise and
question. But early associations are strangely tenacious, and, as
she watched the children trooping to the house of God, there rushed
to her mind memories of other years, when the orphan bands from the
asylum regularly took their places in the Sabbath school. The hymns
she sang then rang again in her ears; long-forgotten passages of
Scripture, repeated then, seemed learned but yesterday. How often
had the venerable superintendent knelt and invoked special guidance
for the afflicted band from the God of orphans! Now she felt doubly
orphaned. In her intellectual pride, she frequently asserted that
she was "the star of her own destiny"; but this morning childish
memories prattled of the Star of Bethlehem, before which she once
bent the knee of adoration. Had it set forever, amid clouds of
superstition, sin, and infidelity? Glittering spires pointed to the
bending heavens, and answered: "It burns on forever, 'brighter and
brighter unto the perfect day'!" With a dull weight on her heart,
she took down her Bible and opened it indifferently at her book-
mark. It proved the thirty-eighth chapter of Job, and she read on
and on, until the bells warned her it was the hour of morning
service. She walked to church, not humbled and prepared to receive
the holy teachings of revelation, but with a defiant feeling in her
heart which she did not attempt or care to analyze. She was not
accustomed to attend Dr. Hew's church, but the sexton conducted her
to a pew, and as she seated herself the solemn notes of the organ
swelled through the vaulted aisles. The choir sang a magnificent
anthem from Haydn's "Creation," and then only the deep, thundering
peal of the organ fell on the dim, cool air. Beulah could bear no
more; as she lowered her veil, bitter tears gushed over her troubled
face. Just then she longed to fall on her knees before the altar and
renew the vows of her childhood; but this impulse very soon died
away, and, while the pews on every side rapidly filled, she watched
impatiently for the appearance of the minister. Immediately in front
of her sat Mr. and Mrs. Graham and Antoinette Dupres. Beulah was
pondering the absence of Cornelia and Eugene, when a full, manly
voice fell on her ear, and, looking up, she saw Mr. Mortimor
standing in the pulpit. He looked older than Pauline's description
had prepared her to expect, and the first impression was one of
disappointment. But the longer she watched the grave, quiet face the
more attractive it became. Certainly he was a handsome man, and,
judging from the contour of head and features, an intellectual one.
There was an absolute repose in the countenance which might have
passed with casual observers for inertia, indifference; but to the
practiced physiognomist it expressed the perfect peace of a mind and
heart completely harmonious. The voice was remarkably clear and well
modulated. His text was selected from the first and last chapters of
Ecclesiastes, and consisted of these verses:

"For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge,
increaseth sorrow."

"And further, by these, my son, be admonished; of making many books
there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us
hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his
commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

To the discourse which followed Beulah listened with the deepest
interest. She followed the speaker over the desert of ancient
Oriental systems, which he rapidly analyzed, and held up as empty
shells; lifting the veil of soufism, he glanced at the mystical
creed of Algazzali; and, in an epitomized account of the Grecian
schools of philosophy, depicted the wild vagaries into which many
had wandered, and the unsatisfactory results to which all had
attained. Not content with these instances of the insufficiency and
mocking nature of human wisdom and learning, he adverted to the
destructive tendency of the Helvetian and D'Holbach systems, and,
after a brief discussion of their ruinous tenets, dilated, with some
erudition upon the conflicting and dangerous theories propounded by
Germany. Then came the contemplation of Christianity, from it's rise
among the fishermen of Galilee to its present summit of power. For
eighteen hundred years it had been assaulted by infidelity, yet each
century saw it advancing--a conquering colossus. Throughout the
sermon the idea was maintained that human reason was utterly
inadequate to discover to man his destiny, that human learning was a
great cheat, and that only from the pages of Holy Writ could genuine
wisdom be acquired. Men were to be as little children in order to be
taught the truths of immortality. Certainly the reasoning was clear
and forcible, the philosophic allusions seemed very apropos, and the
language was elegant and impassioned. The closing hymn was sung; the
organ hushed its worshiping tones; the benediction was pronounced;
the congregation dispersed.

As Beulah descended the steps she found Pauline and Mrs. Lockhart
waiting at the carriage for her. The latter greeted her with quite a
show of cordiality; but the orphan shrank back from the offered
kiss, and merely touched the extended hand. She had not forgotten
the taunts and unkindness of other days; and, though not vindictive,
she could not feign oblivion of the past, nor assume a friendly
manner foreign to her. She took her seat in the carriage, and found
it rather difficult to withdraw her fascinated eyes from Pauline's
lovely face. She knew what was expected of her, however; and said,
as they drove rapidly homeward:

"Mr. Mortimor seems to be a man of more than ordinary erudition."

"Did you like his sermon? Do you like him?" asked Pauline eagerly.

"I like him very much indeed; but do not like his sermon at all,"
answered Beulah bluntly.

"I am sure everybody seemed to be delighted with it," said Mrs.
Lockhart.

"Doubtless the majority of his congregation were; and I was very
much interested, though I do not accept his views. His delivery is
remarkably impressive, and his voice is better adapted to the pulpit
than any I have ever listened to." She strove to say everything
favorable which, in candor, she could.

"Still you did not like his sermon?" said Pauline gravely.

"I cannot accept his conclusions."

"I liked the discourse particularly, Pauline. I wish Percy could
have heard it," said Mrs. Lockhart.

The daughter took no notice whatever of this considerate speech, and
sat quite still, looking more serious than Beulah had ever seen her.
Conversation flagged, despite the young teacher's efforts, and she
was heartily glad when the carriage entered the avenue. Her heart
swelled as she caught sight of the noble old cedars, whose venerable
heads seemed to bow in welcome, while the drooping branches held out
their arms, as if to embrace her. Each tree was familiar; even the
bright coral yaupon clusters were like dear friends greeting her
after a long absence. She had never realized until now how much she
loved this home of her early childhood, and large drops dimmed her
eyes as she passed along the walks where she had so often wandered.

The carriage approached the house, and she saw her quondam guardian
standing before the door. He was bare-headed, and the sunshine fell
like a halo upon his brown, clustering hair, threading it with gold.
He held, in one hand, a small basket of grain, from which he fed a
flock of hungry pigeons. On every side they gathered about him--blue
and white, brown and mottled--some fluttering down from the roof of
the house; two or three, quite tame, perched on his arm, eating from
the basket; and one, of uncommon beauty, sat on his shoulder, cooing
softly. By his side stood Charon, looking gravely on, as if he, wise
soul, thought this familiarity signally impudent. It was a
singularly quiet, peaceful scene, which indelibly daguerreotyped
itself on Beulah's memory. As the carriage whirled round the circle,
and drew up at the door, the startled flock wheeled off; and,
brushing the grain from his hands, Dr. Hartwell advanced to assist
his sister. Pauline sprang out first, exclaiming:

"You abominable heathen! Why didn't you come to church? Even Dr.
Asbury was out."

"Guy, you missed an admirable sermon," chimed in Mrs. Lockhart.

He was disengaging the fringe of Pauline's shawl, which caught the
button of his coat, and, looking up as his sister spoke, his eyes
met Beulah's anxious gaze. She had wondered very much how he would
receive her. His countenance expressed neither surprise nor
pleasure; he merely held out his hand to assist her, saying, in his
usual grave manner:

"I am glad to see you, Beulah."

She looked up in his face for some trace of the old kindness; but
the rare, fascinating smile and protective tenderness had utterly
vanished. He returned her look with a calmly indifferent glance,
which pained her more than any amount of sternness could have done.
She snatched her hand from his, and, missing the carriage step,
would have fallen, but he caught and placed her safely on the
ground, saying coolly:

"Take care; you are awkward."

She followed Pauline up the steps, wishing herself at home in her
little room. But her companion's gay chat diverted her mind, and she
only remembered how very beautiful was the face she looked on.

They stood together before a mirror, smoothing their hair, and
Beulah could not avoid contrasting the images reflected. One was
prematurely grave and thoughtful in its expression--the other
radiant with happy hopes. Pauline surmised what was passing in her
friend's mind, and said merrily:

"For shame, Beulah! to envy me my poor estate of good looks! Why, I
am all nose and eyes, curls, red lips, and cheeks; but you have an
additional amount of brains to balance my gifts. Once I heard Uncle
Guy say that you had more intellect than all the other women and
children in the town! Come; Mr. Lockhart wants to see you very
much."

She ran down the steps as heedlessly as in her childhood, and Beulah
followed her more leisurely. In the study they found the remainder
of the party; Mr. Lockhart was wrapt in a heavy dressing-gown, and
reclined on the sofa. He welcomed Beulah very warmly, keeping her
hand in his and making her sit down near him. He was emaciated, and
a hacking cough prevented his taking any active part in the
conversation. One glance at his sad face sufficed to show her that
his days on earth were numbered, and the expression with which he
regarded his wife told all the painful tale of an unhappy marriage.
She was discussing the sermon, and declaring herself highly
gratified at the impression which Mr. Mortimor had evidently made on
his large and fashionable congregation. Dr. Hartwell stood on the
hearth, listening in silence to his sister's remarks. The Atlantic
might have rolled between them, for any interest he evinced in the
subject. Pauline was restless and excited; finally she crossed the
room, stood close to her uncle, and, carelessly fingering his watch
chain, said earnestly: "Uncle Guy, what did Ernest mean, this
morning, by a 'Fourieristic-phalanx?'"

"A land where learned men are captivated by blue eyes and rosy
lips," answered the doctor, looking down into her sparkling face.

As they stood together Beulah remarked how very much Pauline
resembled him. True, he was pale, and she was a very Hebe, but the
dazzling transparency of the complexion was the same, the silky,
nut-brown hair the same, and the classical chiseling of mouth and
nose identical. Her eyes were "deeply, darkly," matchlessly blue,
and his were hazel; her features were quivering with youthful
joyousness and enthusiasm, his might have been carved in ivory, they
seemed so inflexible; still they were alike. Pauline did not exactly
relish the tone of his reply, and said hastily:

"Uncle Guy, I wish you would not treat me as if I were an idiot; or,
what is not much better, a two-year-old child! How am I ever to
learn any sense?"

"Indeed, I have no idea," said he, passing his soft hand over her
glossy curls.

"You are very provoking! Do you want Ernest to think me a fool?"

"Have you waked to a consciousness of that danger?"

"Yes; and I want you to teach me something. Come, tell me what that
thing is I asked you about."

"Tell you what?"

"Why, what a--a 'Fourieristic-phalanx' is?" said she earnestly.

Beulah could not avoid smiling, and wondered how he managed to look
so very serious, as he replied:

"I know very little about the tactics of Fourieristic-phalanxes, but
believe a phalange is a community or association of about eighteen
hundred persons, who were supposed or intended to practice the
Fourieristic doctrines. In fine, a phalange is a sort of French
Utopia."

"And where is that, sir?" asked Pauline innocently, without taking
her eyes from his face.

"Utopia is situated in No-country, and its chief city is on the
banks of the river Waterless."

"Oh, Uncle Guy! how can you quiz me so unmercifully, when I ask you
to explain things to me?"

"Why, Pauline, I am answering your questions correctly. Sir Thomas
More professed to describe Utopia, which means No-place, and
mentions a river Waterless. Don't look so desperately lofty. I will
show you the book, if you are so incorrigibly stupid." He passed his
arm round her as he spoke, and kept her close beside him.

"Mr. Lockhart, is he telling the truth?" cried she incredulously.

"Certainly he is," answered her stepfather, smiling.

"Oh, I don't believe either of you! You two think that I am simple
enough to believe any absurdity you choose to tell me. Beulah, what
is Utopia?"

"Just what your uncle told you. More used Greek words which
signified nothing, in order to veil the satire."

"Oh, a satire! Now, what is the reason you could not say it was a
satire, you wiseacre?"

"Because I gave you credit for some penetration, and at least common
sense."

"Both of which I have proved myself devoid of, I suppose? Thank
you." She threw her arms round his neck, kissed him once or twice,
and laughingly added: "Come now, Uncle Guy, tell me what these
'phalanxes,' as you call them, have to do with Ernest's text?"

"I really cannot inform you. There is the dinner bell." Unclasping
her arms, he led the way to the dining room.

Later in the afternoon Mr. Lockhart retired to his own room; his
wife fell asleep on the sofa, and Beulah and Pauline sat at the
parlor window, discussing the various occurrences of their long
separation. Pauline talked of her future--how bright it was; how
very much she and Ernest loved each other, and how busy she would be
when she had a home of her own. She supposed she would be obliged to
give up dancing; she had an indistinct idea that preachers' wives
were not in the habit of indulging in any such amusements, and, as
for the theater and opera, she rather doubted whether either were to
be found in the inland town where she was to reside. Uncle Guy
wished to furnish the parsonage, and, among other things, had
ordered an elegant piano for her; she intended to practice a great
deal, because Ernest was so fond of music. Uncle Guy had a hateful
habit of lecturing her about "domestic affairs," but she imagined
the cook would understand her own business; and if Mr. Mortimor
supposed she was going to play housemaid, why, she would very soon
undeceive him. Beulah was much amused at the childlike simplicity
with which she discussed her future, and began to think the whole
affair rather ludicrous, when Pauline started, and exclaimed, as the
blood dyed her cheeks:

"There is Ernest coming up the walk!"

He came in, and greeted her with gentle gravity. He was a dignified,
fine-looking man, with polished manners and perfect self-possession.
There was no trace of austerity in his countenance, and nothing in
his conversation betokening a desire to impress strangers with his
ministerial dignity. He was highly cultivated in all his tastes,
agreeable, and, in fine, a Christian gentleman. Pauline seemed to
consider his remarks oracular, and Beulah could not forbear
contrasting her quietness in his presence with the wild, frolicsome
recklessness which characterized her manner on other occasions. She
wondered what singular freak induced this staid, learned clergyman
to select a companion so absolutely antagonistic in every element of
character. But a glance at Pauline's perfectly beautiful face
explained the mystery. How could anyone help loving her, she was so
radiant and so winning in her unaffected artlessness?

Beulah conjectured that they might, perhaps, entertain each other
without her assistance, and soon left them for the greenhouse, which
was connected with the parlors by a glass door. Followed by Charon,
who had remained beside her all day, she walked slowly between the
rows of plants, many of which were laden with flowers. Brilliant
clusters of scarlet geranium, pale, fragrant heliotropes, and
camellias of every hue surrounded her. Two or three canary birds, in
richly ornate cages, chirped and twittered continually, and for a
moment she forgot the changes that had taken place since the days
when she sought this favorite greenhouse to study her text-books.
Near her stood an antique China vase containing a rare creeper, now
full of beautiful, star-shaped lilac flowers. Many months before,
her guardian had given her this root, and she had planted it in this
same vase; now the long, graceful wreaths were looped carefully
back, and tied to a slender stake. She bent over the fragrant
blossoms, with a heart brimful of memories, and tears dropped thick
and fast on the delicate petals. Charon gave a short bark of
satisfaction, and, raising her head, she saw Dr. Hartwell at the
opposite end of the greenhouse. He was clipping the withered flowers
from a luxuriant white japonica, the same that once furnished
ornaments for her hair. Evidently, he was rather surprised to see
her there, but continued clipping the faded blossoms, and whistled
to his dog. Charon acknowledged the invitation by another bark, but
nestled his great head against Beulah, and stood quite still, while
she passed her hand caressingly over him. She fancied a smile
crossed her guardian's lips; but when he turned toward her there was
no trace of it, and he merely said:

"Where is Pauline?"

"In the parlor, with Mr. Mortimer."

"Here are the scissors; cut as many flowers as you like."

He held out the scissors; but she shook her head, and answered
hastily:

"Thank you; I do not want any."

He looked at her searchingly, and, observing unshed tears in her
eyes, said, in a kinder tone than he had yet employed:

"Beulah, what do you want?"

"Something that I almost despair of obtaining."

"Child, you are wasting your strength and energies in a fruitless
undertaking. Already you have grown thin and hollow-eyed; your
accustomed contented, cheerful spirit is deserting you. Your self-
appointed task is a hopeless one; utterly hopeless!"

"I will not believe it," said she firmly.

"Very well; some day you will be convinced that you are not
infallible." He smiled grimly, and busied himself with his flowers.

"Sir, you could help me, if you would." She clasped her hands over
his arm, and fixed her eyes on his countenance, with all the
confidence and dependence of other days.

"Did I ever refuse you anything you asked?" said he, looking down at
the little hands on his arm, and at the pale, anxious face, with its
deep, troubled eyes.

"No! and it is precisely for that reason that I ask assistance from
you now."

"I suppose you are reduced to the last necessity. What has become of
your pride, Beulah?"

"It is all here, in my heart, sir! thundering to me to walk out and
leave you, since you are so unlike yourself!"

He looked stern and indescribably sad. She glanced up an instant at
his fascinating eyes, and then, laying her head down on his arm, as
she used to do in childhood, said resolutely:

"Oh, sir! you must aid me. Whom have I to advise me but you?"

"My advice has about as much weight with you as Charon's would,
could he utter it. I am an admirable counselor only so long as my
opinions harmonize with the dictates of your own will. How am I to
aid you? I went, at twelve o'clock last night, to see a dying man,
and, passing along the street, saw a light burning from your window.
Two hours later, as I returned, it glimmered there still. Why were
you up? Beulah, what is the matter with you? Has your last treatise
on the 'Origin of Ideas' run away with those of its author, and
landed you both in a region of vagaries? Remember, I warned you."

"Something worse, sir." "Perhaps German metaphysics have stranded
you on the bleak, bald cliffs of Pyrrhonism?"

"Sir, it seems to me there is a great deal of unmerited odium laid
upon the innocent shoulders of German metaphysics. People declaim
against the science of metaphysics, as if it were the disease
itself; whereas it is the remedy. Metaphysics do not originate the
trouble; their very existence proves the priority of the disease
which they attempt to relieve--"

"Decidedly a homeopathic remedy," interrupted her guardian, smiling.

"But, sir, the questions which disturb my mind are older than my
acquaintance with so-called philosophic works. They have troubled me
from my childhood."

"Nevertheless, I warned you not to explore my library," said he,
with a touch of sorrow in his voice.

"How, then, can you habitually read books which you are unwilling to
put into my hands?"

"To me all creeds and systems are alike null. With you, Beulah, it
was once very different."

"Once! yes, once!" She shuddered at the wild waste into which she
had strayed.

"What are the questions that have so long disturbed you?"

"Questions, sir, which, all my life, have been printed on evening
sun-flushed clouds, on rosy sea shells, on pale, sweet, delicate
blossoms, and which I have unavailingly sought to answer for myself.
There are mysteries in physics, morals, and metaphysics that have
wooed me on to an investigation; but the further I wander, deeper
grows the darkness. Alone and unaided I have been forced to brave
these doubts; I have studied, and read, and thought. Cloudy
symbolisms mock me on every side; and the more earnestly I strive to
overtake truth the tighter grow my eyes. Now, sir, you are much
older; you have scaled the dizzy heights of science and carefully
explored the mines of philosophy; and if human learning will avail,
then you can help me. It is impossible for you to have lived and
studied so long without arriving at some conclusion relative to
these vexing questions of this and every other age. I want to know
whether I have ever lived before; whether there is not an anterior
life of my soul, of which I get occasional glimpses, and the memory
of which haunts and disquiets me. This doubt has not been engendered
by casual allusions to Plato's 'reminiscence theory'; before I knew
there was such a doctrine in existence I have sat by your study
fire, pondering some strange coincidences for which I could not
account. It seemed an indistinct outgoing into the far past; a dim
recollection of scenes and ideas, older than the aggregate of my
birthdays; now a flickering light, then all darkness; no clew; all
shrouded in the mystery of voiceless ages. I tried to explain these
psychological phenomena by the theory of association of ideas, but
they eluded an analysis; there was no chain along which memory can
pass. They were like ignes fatui, flashing up from dank caverns and
dying out while I looked upon them. As I grew older I found strange
confirmation in those curious passages of Coleridge and Wordsworth,
[Footnote: Coleridge's "Sonnet on the Birth of a Son." Wordsworth's
"Ode--Intimations of Immortality."] and continually I propound to my
soul these questions: 'If you are immortal, and will exist through
endless ages, have you not existed from the beginning of time?
Immortality knows neither commencement nor ending. If so, whither
shall I go when this material framework is dissolved? to make other
frameworks? to a final rest? Or shall the I, the me, the soul, lose
its former identity? Am I a minute constituent of the all-diffused,
all-pervading Spirit, a breath of the Infinite Essence, one day to
be divested of my individuality? or is God an awful, gigantic,
immutable, isolated Personality? If so, what medium of communication
is afforded? Can the spiritual commune with matter? Can the material
take cognizance of the purely spiritual and divine?' Oh, sir! I know
that you do not accept the holy men of Galilee as His deputed
oracles. Tell me where you find surer prophets. Only show me the
truth--the eternal truth, and I would give my life for it! Sir, how
can you smile at such questions as these--questions involving the
soul's destiny? One might fancy you a second Parrhasius."

She drew back a step or two and regarded him anxiously, nay,
pleadingly, as though he held the key to the Temple of Truth, and
would not suffer her to pass the portal. A sarcastic smile lighted
his Apollo-like face, as he answered:

"There is more truth in your metaphor than you imagined; a la
Parrhasius, I do see you, a tortured Prometheus, chained by links of
your own forging to the Caucasus of Atheism. But listen to--"

"No, no; not that! not Atheism! God save me from that deepest,
blackest gulf!" She shuddered, and covered her face with her hands.

"Beulah, you alone must settle these questions with your own soul;
my solutions would not satisfy you. For thousands of years they have
been propounded, and yet no answer comes down on the 'cloudy wings
of centuries.' Each must solve to suit his or her peculiar
conformation of mind. My child, if I could aid you I would gladly do
so; but I am no Swedenborg, to whom the arcana of the universe have
been revealed."

"Still, after a fashion, you have solved these problems. May I not
know what your faith is?" said she earnestly.

"Child, I have no faith! I know that I exist; that a beautiful
universe surrounds me, and I am conscious of a multitude of
conflicting emotions; but, like Launcelot Smith, I doubt whether I
am 'to pick and choose myself out of myself.' Further than this I
would assure you of nothing. I stand on the everlasting basis of all
skepticism, 'There is no criterion of truth! All must be but
subjectively, relatively true.'"

"Sir, this may be so as regards psychological abstractions; but can
you be contented with this utter negation of the grand problems of
ontology?"

"A profound philosophic writer of the age intimates that the various
psychological systems which have so long vexed the world are but
veiled ontologic speculations. What matters the machinery of ideas,
but as enabling philosophy to cope successfully with ontology?
Philosophy is a huge wheel which has been revolving for ages; early
metaphysicians hung their finely spun webs on its spokes, and
metaphysicians of the nineteenth century gaze upon and renew the
same pretty theories as the wheel revolves. The history of
philosophy shows but a reproduction of old systems and methods of
inquiry. Beulah, no mine of ontologic truth has been discovered.
Conscious of this, our seers tell us there is nothing now but
'eclecticism'! Ontology is old as human nature, yet the stone of
Sisyphus continues to roll back upon the laboring few who strive to
impel it upward. Oh, child, do you not see how matters stand? Why,
how can the finite soul cope with Infinite Being? This is one form--
the other, if we can take cognizance of the Eternal and Self-
existing Being, underlying all phenomena, why, then, we are part and
parcel of that Infinity. Pantheism or utter skepticism--there is no
retreat."

"I don't want to believe that, sir. I will not believe it. What was
my reason given to me for? Was this spirit of inquiry after truth
only awakened in my soul to mock me with a sense of my nothingness?
Why did my Maker imbue me with an insatiable thirst for knowledge?
Knowledge of the deep things of philosophy, the hidden wonders of
the universe, the awful mysteries of the shadowy spirit realm? Oh,
there are analogies pervading all departments! There is physical
hunger to goad to exertions which will satisfy its demands, and most
tonics are bitter; so, bitter struggles develop and strengthen the
soul, even as hard study invigorates the mind and numerous sorrows
chasten the heart. There is truth for the earnest seeker somewhere--
somewhere! If I live a thousand years I will toil after it till I
find it. If, as you believe, death is annihilation, then will I make
the most of my soul while I have it. Oh, sir, what is life for?
Merely to eat and drink, to sleep and be clothed? Is it to be only a
constant effort to keep soul and body together? If I thought so I
would rather go back to nothingness this day--this hour! No, no! My
name bids me press on; there is a land of Beulah somewhere for my
troubled spirit. Oh, I will go back to my humble home, and study on,
unguided, unassisted even as I have begun. I cannot rest on your
rock of negation."

She could not control her trembling voice, and tears of bitter
disappointment fell over her pale, fixed features. A melancholy
smile parted Dr. Hartwell's lips, and, smoothing the bands of
rippling hair which lay on her white brow, he answered in his own
thrilling, musical accents:

"Child, you are wasting your energies in vain endeavors to build up
walls of foam that--"

"Sir, I am no longer a child! I am a woman, and--"

"Yes, my little Beulah, and your woman's heart will not be satisfied
long with these dim abstractions, which now you chase so eagerly.
Mark me, there surely comes a time when you will loathe the bare
name of metaphysics. You are making a very hotbed of your intellect,
while you heart is daily becoming a dreary desert. Take care, lest
the starvation be so complete that eventually you will be unable to
reclaim it. Dialectics answer very well in collegiate halls, but
will not content you. Remember 'Argemone.'"

"She is a miserable libel on woman's nature and intellect. I scorn
the attempted parallel!" answered Beulah indignantly.

"Very well; mark me, though, your intellectual pride will yet wreck
your happiness."

He walked out of the greenhouse, whistling to Charon, who bounded
after him. Beulah saw from the slanting sunlight that the afternoon
was far advanced, and feeling in no mood to listen to Pauline's
nonsense she found her bonnet and shawl, and repaired to the parlor
to say good-by to the happy pair, who seemed unconscious of her long
absence. As she left the house the window of the study was thrown
open, and Dr. Hartwell called out carelessly:

"Wait, and let me order the carriage."

"No, thank you."

"I am going into town directly, and can take you home in the buggy."

"I will not trouble you; I prefer walking. Good-by."

He bowed coldly, and she hurried away, glad to reach the gate and
feel that she was once more free from his searching glance and
beyond the sound of his reserved, chilling tones. As she walked on,
groups of happy parents and children were seen in every direction,
taking their quiet Sabbath ramble through the suburbs; and as joyous
voices and innocent laughter fell upon the still air, she remembered
with keen sorrow that she had no ties, no kindred, no companions.
Lilly's cherub face looked out at her from the somber frame of the
past, and Eugene's early friendship seemed now a taunting specter.
In her warm, loving heart were unfathomable depths of intense
tenderness. Was it the wise providence of God which sealed these
wells of affection, or was it a grim, merciless fate which snatched
her idols from her, one by one, and left her heart desolate? Such an
inquiry darted through her mind; but she put it resolutely aside,
and consoled herself much after this fashion: "Why should I question
the circumstances of my life? If the God of Moses guards his
creation, all things are well. If not, life is a lottery, and though
I have drawn blanks thus far, the future may contain a prize, and
for me that prize may be the truth my soul pants after. I have no
right to complain; the very loneliness of my position fits me
peculiarly for the work I have to do. I will labor, and be content."
The cloud passed swiftly from her countenance, and she looked up to
the quiet sky with a brave, hopeful heart.



CHAPTER XXV.


Among the number of gentlemen whom Beulah occasionally met at Dr.
Asbury's house were two whose frequent visits and general demeanor
induced the impression that they were more than ordinarily
interested in the sisters. Frederick Vincent evinced a marked
preference for Georgia, while Horace Maxwell was conspicuously
attentive to Helen. The former was wealthy, handsome, indolent, and
self-indulgent; the latter rather superior, as to business habits,
which a limited purse peremptorily demanded. Doubtless both would
have passed as men of medium capacity, but certainly as nothing
more. In fine, they were fair samples, perfect types of the numerous
class of fashionable young men who throng all large cities. Good-
looking, vain, impudent, heartless, frivolous, and dissipated;
adepts at the gaming table and pistol gallery, ciphers in an
intelligent, refined assembly. They smoked the choicest cigars,
drank the most costly wines, drove the fastest horses, and were
indispensable at champagne and oyster suppers. They danced and
swore, visited and drank, with reckless indifference to every purer
and nobler aim. Notwithstanding manners of incorrigible effrontery
which characterized their clique, the ladies always received them
with marked expressions of pleasure, and the entree of the "first
circle" was certainly theirs. Dr. Asbury knew comparatively little
of the young men who visited so constantly at his house, but of the
two under discussion he chanced to know that they were by no means
models of sobriety, having met them late one night as they supported
each other's tottering forms homeward, after a card and wine party,
which ended rather disastrously for both. He openly avowed his
discontent at the intimacy their frequent visits induced, and
wondered how his daughters could patiently indulge in the heartless
chit-chat which alone could entertain them. But he was a fond,
almost doting father, and seemed to take it for granted that they
were mere dancing acquaintances, whose society must be endured. Mrs.
Asbury was not so blind, and discovered, with keen sorrow and
dismay, that Georgia was far more partial to Vincent than she had
dreamed possible. The mother's heart ached with dread lest her
child's affections were really enlisted, and, without her husband's
knowledge she passed many hours of bitter reflection as to the best
course she should pursue to arrest Vincent's intimacy at the house.
Only a woman knows woman's heart, and she felt that Georgia's
destiny would be decided by the measures she now employed. Ridicule,
invective, and even remonstrance she knew would only augment her
interest in one whom she considered unjustly dealt with. She was
thoroughly acquainted with the obstinacy which formed the stamen of
Georgia's character, and very cautiously the maternal guidance must
be given. She began by gravely regretting the familiar footing Mr.
Vincent had acquired in her family, and urged upon Georgia and Helen
the propriety of discouraging attentions that justified the world in
joining their names. This had very little effect. She was conscious
that because of his wealth Vincent was courted and flattered by the
most select and fashionable of her circle of acquaintances, and
knew, alas! that he was not more astray than the majority of the
class of young men to which he belonged. With a keen pang, she saw
that her child shrank from her, evaded her kind questions, and
seemed to plunge into the festivities of the season with unwonted
zest. From their birth she had trained her daughters to confide
unreservedly in her, and now to perceive the youngest avoiding her
caresses, or hurrying away from her anxious glance, was bitter
indeed. How her pure-hearted darling could tolerate the reckless,
frivolous being in whose society she seemed so well satisfied was a
painful mystery; but the startling reality looked her in the face,
and she resolved, at every hazard, to save her from the misery which
was in store for Fred Vincent's wife. Beulah's quick eye readily
discerned the state of affairs relative to Georgia and Vincent, and
she could with difficulty restrain an expression of the disgust a
knowledge of his character inspired. He was a brother of the Miss
Vincent she had once seen at Dr. Hartwell's, and probably this
circumstance increased her dislike. Vincent barely recognized her
when they chanced to meet, and, of all his antipathies, hatred of
Beulah predominated. He was perfectly aware that she despised his
weaknesses and detested his immoralities; and, while he shrank from
the steadfast gray eyes, calm but contemptuous, he hated her
heartily.

Cornelia Graham seemed for a time to have rallied all her strength,
and attended parties and kept her place at the opera with a
regularity which argued a complete recovery. Antoinette Dupres was
admired and nattered; the season was unusually gay. What if Death
had so lately held his awful assize in the city? Bereaved families
wrapped their sable garments about lonely hearts, and wept over the
countless mounds in the cemetery; but the wine-cup and song and
dance went their accustomed rounds in fashionable quarters, and
drink, dress, and be merry appeared the all-absorbing thought. Into
this gayety Eugene Graham eagerly plunged; night after night was
spent in one continued whirl; day by day he wandered further astray,
and ere long his visits to Beulah ceased entirely. Antoinette
thoroughly understood the game she had to play, and easily and
rapidly he fell into the snare. To win her seemed his only wish; and
not even Cornelia's keenly searching eyes could check his admiration
and devotion. January had gone; February drew near its close. Beulah
had not seen Eugene for many days and felt more than usually anxious
concerning him, for little intercourse now existed between Cornelia
and herself. One evening, however, as she stood before a glass and
arranged her hair with more than ordinary care, she felt that she
would soon have an opportunity of judging whether reports were true.
If he indeed rushed along the highway to ruin, one glance would
discover to her the fact. Dr. Asbury wished to give Pauline Chilton
a party, and his own and Mrs. Asbury's kind persuasions induced the
orphan to consent to attend. The evening had arrived. She put on her
simple Swiss muslin dress, without a wish for anything more costly,
and entered the carriage her friends had sent to convey her to the
house. The guests rapidly assembled; soon the rooms were thronged
with merry people, whose moving to and fro prevented regular
conversation. The brilliant chandeliers flashed down on rich silks
and satins, gossamer fabrics, and diamonds which blazed dazzlingly.
Pauline was superbly beautiful. Excitement lighted her eyes and
flushed her cheeks, until all paused to gaze at her transcendent
loveliness. It was generally known that ere many days her marriage
would take place, and people looked at her in her marvelous, queenly
beauty, and wondered what infatuation induced her to give her hand
to a minister, when she, of all others present, seemed made to move
in the gay scene where she reigned supreme. From a quiet seat near
the window Beulah watched her airy, graceful form glide through the
quadrille, and feared that in future years she would sigh for the
gayeties which in her destined lot would be withheld from her. She
tried to fancy the dazzling beauty metamorphosed into the staid
clergyman's wife, divested of satin and diamonds, and visiting the
squalid and suffering portion of her husband's flock. But the
contrast was too glaring, and she turned her head to watch for
Eugene's appearance. Before long she saw him cross the room with
Antoinette on his arm. The quadrille had ended, and as, at the
request of one of the guests, the band played a brilliant mazourka,
numerous couples took their places on the floor. Beulah had never
seen the mazourka danced in public; she knew that neither Helen nor
Georgia ever danced the so-called "fancy dances," and was not a
little surprised when the gentlemen encircled the waists of their
partners and whirled away. Her eyes followed Eugene's tall form, as
the circuit of the parlors was rapidly made, and he approached the
corner where she sat. He held his lovely partner close to his heart,
and her head drooped very contentedly on his shoulder. He was
talking to her as they danced, and his lips nearly touched her
glowing cheek. On they came, so close to Beulah that Antoinette's
gauzy dress floated against her, and, as the music quickened, faster
flew the dancers. Beulah looked on with a sensation of disgust which
might have been easily read in her countenance; verily she blushed
for her degraded sex, and, sick of the scene, left the window and
retreated to the library, where the more sedate portion of the
guests were discussing various topics. Here were Mr. and Mrs.
Grayson; Claudia was North, at school. Beulah found a seat near Mrs.
Asbury, and endeavored to banish the painful recollections which
Mrs. Grayson's face recalled. They had not met since the memorable
day when the orphan first found a guardian, and she felt that there
was still an unconquerable aversion in her heart which caused it to
throb heavily. She thought the time tediously long, and when at last
the signal for supper was given, felt relieved. As usual, there was
rushing and squeezing into the supper room, and, waiting until the
hall was comparatively deserted, she ran up to the dressing room for
her shawl, tired of the crowd and anxious to get home again. She
remembered that she had dropped her fan behind one of the sofas in
the parlor, and, as all were at supper, fancied she could obtain it
unobserved, and entered the room for that purpose. A gentleman stood
by the fire; but, without noticing him, she pushed the sofa aside,
secured her fan, and was turning away when a well-known voice
startled her.

"Beulah, where are you going?"

"Home, sir."

"What! so soon tired?"

"Yes; heartily tired," said she, wrapping her shawl about her.

"Have you spoken to Eugene to-night?"

"No."

Her guardian looked at her very intently, as if striving to read her
soul, and said slowly:

"Child, he and Antoinette are sitting in the front parlor. I
happened to overhear a remark as I passed them. He is an accepted
lover; they are engaged."

A quick shiver ran over Beulah's frame, and a dark frown furrowed
her pale brow, as she answered:

"I feared as much."

"Why should you fear, child? She is a beautiful heiress, and he
loves her," returned Dr. Hartwell, without taking his eyes from her
face.

"No; he thinks he loves her, but it is not so. He is fascinated by
her beauty; but I fear the day will come when, discovering her true
character, he will mourn his infatuation. I know his nature, and I
know, too, that she cannot make him happy."

She turned away; but he walked on with her to the carriage, handed
her in, and said "Good-night" as coldly as usual. Meantime, the
rattle of plates, jingle of forks and spoons, in the supper room,
would have rendered all conversation impossible had not the
elevation of voices kept pace with the noise and confusion. At one
end of the table Cornelia Graham stood talking to a distinguished
foreigner who was spending a few days in the city. He was a handsome
man, with fine colloquial powers, and seemed much interested in a
discussion which he and Cornelia carried on, relative to the society
of American cities as compared with European. A temporary lull in
the hum of voices allowed Cornelia to hear a remark made by a
gentleman quite near her.

"Miss Laura, who did you say that young lady was that Mrs. Asbury
introduced me to? The one with such magnificent hair and teeth?"

His companion was no other than Laura Martin, whose mother, having
built an elegant house and given several large parties, was now a
"fashionable," par excellence. Laura elevated her nose very
perceptibly, and answered:

"Oh, a mere nobody! Beulah Benton. I can't imagine how she contrived
to be invited here. She is a teacher in the public school, I
believe; but that is not the worst. She used to hire herself out as
a servant. Indeed, it is a fact, she was my little brother's nurse
some years ago. I think ma hired her for six dollars a month." She
laughed affectedly, and allowed her escort to fill her plate with
creams.

Cornelia grew white with anger, and the stranger asked, with a
smile, if he should consider this a sample of the society she
boasted of. Turning abruptly to Laura, she replied, with undisguised
contempt:

"The Fates forbid, Mr. Falconer, that you should judge American
society from some of the specimens you may see here to-night!
Misfortune placed Miss Benton, at an early age, in an orphan asylum,
and while quite young she left it to earn a support. Mrs. Martin
(this young lady's mother) hired her as a nurse; but she soon left
this position, qualified herself to teach, and now, with a fine
intellect thoroughly cultivated, is the pride of all who can
appreciate true nobility of soul and, of course, an object of envy
and detraction to her inferiors, especially to some of our
fashionable parvenus, whose self-interest prompts them to make money
alone the standard of worth, and who are in the habit of determining
the gentility of different persons by what they have, not what they
are."

Her scornful glance rested witheringly on Laura's face, and,
mortified and enraged, the latter took her companion's arm and moved
away.

"I have some desire to become acquainted with one who could deserve
such eulogy from you," answered the foreigner, somewhat amused at
the course the conversation had taken and quite satisfied that
Americans were accustomed to correct false impressions in rather an
abrupt manner.

"I will present you to her with great pleasure. She is not here; we
must search for her."

She took his arm, and they looked for Beulah from room to room;
finally, Dr. Hartwell informed Cornelia that she had gone home, and,
tired and out of humor, the latter excused herself and prepared to
follow her friend's example. Her father was deep in a game of whist,
her mother unwilling to return home so soon, and Eugene and
Antoinette--where were they? Dr. Hartwell saw her perplexed
expression, and asked:

"Whom are you looking for?"

"Eugene."

"He is with your cousin on the west gallery. I will conduct you to
them, if you wish it."

He offered his arm, and noticed the scowl that instantly darkened
her face. Unconsciously her fingers grasped his arm tightly, and she
walked on with a lowering brow. As they approached the end of the
gallery Cornelia saw that the two she sought stood earnestly
conversing. Eugene's arm passed round Antoinette's waist. Dr.
Hartwell watched his companion closely; the light from the window
gleamed over her face and showed it gray and rigid. Her white lips
curled as she muttered:

"Let us take another turn before I speak to them."

"Surely you are not surprised?"

"Oh, no! I am not blind!"

"It was an unlucky chance that threw your cousin in his path," said
the doctor composedly.

"Oh, it is merely another link in the chain of fatality which binds
my family to misfortune. She has all the family traits of the
Labords, and you know what they are," cried Cornelia.

He compressed his lips, and a lightning glance shot out from his
eyes; but he stilled the rising tempest, and replied coldly:

"Why, then, did you not warn him?"

"Warn him! So I did. But I might as well grasp at the stars yonder
as hope to influence him in this infatuation."

Once more they approached the happy pair, and, leaning forward,
Cornelia said hoarsely:

"Eugene, my father is engaged; come home with me."

He looked up, and answered carelessly: "Oh, you are leaving too
early. Can't you entertain yourself a little longer?"

"No, sir."

Her freezing tone startled him, and for the first time he noticed
the haggard face, with its expression of angry scorn. Her eyes were
fixed on Antoinette, who only smiled and looked triumphantly
defiant.

"Are you ill, Cornelia? Of course I will take you home if you really
desire it. Doctor, I must consign Miss Dupres to your care till I
return."

Eugene by no means relished the expression of his sister's
countenance. She bade Dr. Harwell adieu, passed her arm through her
brother's, and they proceeded to their carriage. The ride was short
and silent. On reaching home, Eugene conducted Cornelia into the
house, and was about to return when she said imperiously:

"A word with you before you go."

She entered the sitting room, threw her wrappings on a chair, and
began to divest herself of bracelets and necklace. Eugene lighted a
cigar and stood waiting to hear what she might choose to
communicate. Fastening her brilliant black eyes on his face, she
said sneeringly:

"Eugene Graham, did you learn dissimulation in the halls of
Heidelberg?"

"What do you mean, Cornelia?"

"Where did you learn to deceive one who believed you pure and
truthful as an archangel? Answer me that." Her whole face was a
glare of burning scorn.

"Insulting insinuations are unworthy of you and beneath my notice,"
he proudly replied.

"Well, then, take the more insulting truth! What crawling serpent of
temptation induced you to tell me you expected to marry Beulah? No
evasion! I will not be put off! Why did you deceive me with a
falsehood I was too stupidly trusting to discover until recently?"

"When I told you so I expected to marry Beulah; not so much because
I loved her, but because I supposed that she rather considered me
bound to her by early ties. I discovered, however, that her
happiness was not dependent on me, and therefore abandoned the
idea."

"And my peerless cousin is to be your bride, eh?"

"Yes; she has promised me her hand at an early day."

"No doubt. You don't deserve anything better. Beulah scorns you; I
see it in her eyes. Marry you! You! Oh, Eugene, she is far too
superior to you. You are blind now; but the day will surely come
when your charmer will, with her own hand, tear the veil from your
eyes, and you will curse your folly. It is of no use to tell you
that she is false, heartless, utterly unprincipled; you will not
believe it, of course, till you find out her miserable defects
yourself. I might thunder warnings in your ears from now till
doomsday, and you would not heed me. But whether I live to see it or
not, you will bitterly rue your infatuation. You will blush for the
name which, as your wife, Antoinette will disgrace. Now leave me."

She pointed to the door, and, too much incensed to reply, he quitted
the room with a suppressed oath, slamming the door behind him.
Cornelia went up to her own apartment and, without ringing for her
maid, took off the elegant dress she wore, and threw her dressing
gown round her. The diamond hairpins glowed like coals of fire in
her black braids, mocking the gray, bloodless face, and look of
wretchedness. She took out the jewels, laid them on her lap, and
suffered the locks of hair to fall upon her shoulders. Then great
hot tears rolled over her face; heavy sobs convulsed her frame, and,
bowing down her head, the haughty heiress wept passionately. Eugene
was the only being she really loved; for years her hopes and pride
had centered in him. Now down the long vista of coming time she
looked and saw him staggering on to ruin and disgrace. She knew her
own life would at best be short, and felt that now it had lost its
only interest, and she was ready to sink to her last rest rather
than witness his future career. This was the first time she had wept
since the days of early childhood; but she calmed the fearful
struggle in her heart, and, toward dawn, fell asleep, with a
repulsive sneer on her lips. The ensuing day she was forced to
listen to the complacent comments of her parents, who were well
pleased with the alliance. Antoinette was to return home
immediately, the marriage would take place in June, and they were
all to spend the summer at the North; after which it was suggested
that the young couple should reside with Mr. Graham. Cornelia was
standing apart when her mother made this proposition, and, turning
sharply toward the members of her family, the daughter exclaimed:

"Never! You all know that this match is utterly odious to me. Let
Eugene have a house of his own; I have no mind to have Antoinette
longer in my home. Nay, father; it will not be for a great while.
When I am gone they can come; I rather think I shall not long be in
their way. While I do live, let me be quiet, will you?"

Her burning yet sunken eyes ran over the group.

Eugene sprang up and left the room; Antoinette put her embroidered
handkerchief to dry eyes; Mrs. Graham looked distressed; and her
husband wiped his spectacles. But the mist was in his eyes, and
presently large drops fell over his cheeks as he looked at the face
and form of his only child.

Cornelia saw his emotion; the great floodgate of her heart seemed
suddenly lifted. She passed her white fingers over his gray hair,
and murmured brokenly:

"My father--my father! I have been a care and a sorrow to you all my
life; I am very wayward and exacting, but bear with your poor child;
my days are numbered. Father, when my proud head lies low in the
silent grave, then give others my place."

He took her in his arms and kissed her hollow cheek, saying
tenderly:

"My darling, you break my heart. Have you ever been denied a wish?
What is there that I can do to make you happy?"

"Give Eugene a house of his own, and let me be at peace in my home.
Will you do this for me?"

"Yes."

"Thank you, my father."

Disengaging his clasping arm, she left them.

A few days after the party at her house, Mrs. Asbury returned home
from a visit to the asylum (of which she had recently been elected a
manager). In passing the parlor door she heard suppressed voices,
looked in, and, perceiving Mr. Vincent seated near Georgia, retired,
without speaking, to her own room. Securing the door, she sank on
her knees, and besought an all-wise God to direct and aid her in her
course of duty. The time had arrived when she must hazard everything
to save her child from an ill-fated marriage; and though the
mother's heart bled she was firm in her resolve. When Mr. Vincent
took leave, and Georgia had returned to her room, Mrs. Asbury sought
her. She found her moody and disposed to evade her questions.
Passing her arm round her, she said very gently:

"My dear child, let there be perfect confidence between us. Am I not
more interested in your happiness than anyone else? My child, what
has estranged you of late?"

Georgia made no reply.

"What, but my love for you and anxiety for your happiness, could
induce me to object to your receiving Mr. Vincent's attentions?"

"You are prejudiced against him, and always were!"

"I judge the young man only from his conduct. You know--you are
obliged to know, that he is recklessly dissipated, selfish, and
immoral."

"He is no worse than other young men. I know very few who are not
quite as wild as he is. Beside, he has promised to sign the
temperance pledge if I will marry him."

"My child, you pain me beyond expression. Does the depravity which
prevails here sanction Vincent's dissipation? Oh, Georgia, has
association deprived you of horror of vice? Can you be satisfied
because others are quite as degraded? He does not mean what he
promises; it is merely to deceive you. His intemperate habits are
too confirmed to be remedied now; he began early, at college, and
has constantly grown worse."

"You are prejudiced," persisted Georgia, unable to restrain her
tears.

"If I am, it is because of his profligacy! Can you possibly be
attached to such a man?"

Georgia sobbed and cried heartily. Her good sense told her that her
mother was right, but it was difficult to relinquish the hope of
reforming him. As gently as possible, Mrs. Asbury dwelt upon his
utter worthlessness, and the misery and wretchedness which would
surely ensue from such a union. With streaming eyes, she implored
her to banish the thought, assuring her she would sooner see her in
her grave than the wife of a drunkard. And now the care of years was
to be rewarded; her firm but gentle reasoning prevailed. Georgia had
always reverenced her mother; she knew she was invariably guided by
principle; and now, as she listened to her earnest entreaties, all
her obstinacy melted away. Throwing herself into her mother's arms,
she begged her to forgive the pain and anxiety she had caused her.
Mrs. Asbury pressed her to her heart, and silently thanked God for
the success of her remonstrances. Of all this Dr. Asbury knew
nothing. When Mr. Vincent called the following day Georgia very
decidedly rejected him. Understanding from her manner that she meant
what she said, he became violently enraged; swore, with a solemn
oath, that he would make her repent her trifling; took his hat, and
left the house. This sufficed to remove any lingering tenderness
from Georgia's heart; and from that hour Fred Vincent darkened the
home circle no more.



CHAPTER XXVI.


Pauline's wedding day dawned clear and bright, meet for the happy
event it was to chronicle. The ceremony was to be performed in
church, at an early hour, to enable the newly married pair to leave
on the morning boat, and the building was crowded with the numerous
friends assembled to witness the rites. The minister stood within
the altar, and, after some slight delay, Mr. Mortimor led Pauline
down the aisle. Dr. Hartwell and Mrs. Lockhart stood near the altar.
Mr. Lockhart's indisposition prevented his attendance. Satin, blond,
and diamonds were discarded; Pauline was dressed in a gray traveling
habit and wore a plain drab traveling bonnet.

It was a holy, a touching bridal. The morning sunshine, stealing
through the lofty, arched windows, fell on her pure brow with
dazzling radiance, and lent many a golden wave to the silky,
clustering curls. Pauline was marvelously beautiful; the violet eyes
were dewy with emotion, and her ripe, coral lips wreathed with a
smile of trembling joyousness. Perchance a cursory observer might
have fancied Mr. Mortimor's countenance too grave and thoughtful for
such an occasion; but though the mouth was at rest, and the dark,
earnest eyes sparkled not, there was a light of grateful, chastened
gladness shed over the quiet features. Only a few words were uttered
by the clergyman, and Pauline, the wild, wayward, careless, high-
spirited girl, stood there a wife. She grew deadly pale, and looked
up with a feeling of awe to him who was now, for all time, the
master of her destiny. The vows yet upon her lips bound her
irrevocably to his side, and imposed on her, as a solemn duty, the
necessity of bearing all trials for herself; of smoothing away home
cares from his path; and, when her own heart was troubled, of
putting by the sorrow and bitterness, and ever welcoming his coming
with a word of kindness or a smile of joy. A wife! She must be brave
enough to wrestle with difficulties for herself, instead of wearying
him with all the tedious details of domestic trials, and yet turn to
him for counsel and sympathy in matters of serious import. No longer
a mere self-willed girl, consulting only her own wishes and tastes,
she had given another the right to guide and control her; and now
realizing, for the first time, the importance of the step she had
taken, she trembled in anticipation of the trouble her wayward,
obstinate will would cause her. But with her wonted, buoyant spirit
she turned from all unpleasant reflections, and received the
congratulations of her friends with subdued gayety. Beulah stood at
some distance, watching the April face, checkered with smiles and
tears; and, looking with prophetic dread into the future, she saw
how little genuine happiness could result from a union of natures so
entirely uncongenial. To her the nuptial rites were more awfully
solemn than those of death, for how infinitely preferable was a
quiet resting-place in the shadow of mourning cedars to the lifelong
agony of an unhappy union! She looked up at her quondam guardian, as
he stood, grave and silent, regarding his niece with sadly anxious
eyes; and, as she noted the stern inflexibility of his sculptured
mouth, she thought that he stood there a marble monument, recording
the misery of an ill-assorted marriage. But it was schooltime, and
she approached to say "good-by," as the bridal pair took their seats
in the carriage. Pauline seemed much troubled at bidding her adieu;
she wept silently a minute, then, throwing her arms around Beulah's
neck, whispered pleadingly.

"Won't you go back to Uncle Guy? Won't you let him adopt you? Do,
please. See how grim and pale he looks. Won't you?"

"No. He has ceased to care about my welfare; he is not distressed
about me, I assure you. Good-by. Write to me often."

"Yes, I will; and in vacation Ernest says you are to come up and
spend at least a month with us. Do you hear?"

The carriage was whirled away, and Beulah walked on to her
schoolroom with a dim foreboding that when she again met the
beautiful, warm-hearted girl sunshine might be banished from her
face. Days, weeks, and months passed by. How systematic industry
speeds the wheels of time! Beulah had little leisure, and this was
employed with the most rigid economy. School duties occupied her
until late in the day; then she gave, every afternoon, a couple of
music lessons and it was not until night that she felt herself
free. The editor of the magazine found that her articles were worth
remuneration, and consequently a monthly contribution had to be
copied and sent in at stated intervals. Thus engaged, spring glided
into summer, and once more a June sun beamed on the city. One
Saturday she accompanied Clara to a jewelry store to make some
trifling purchase, and saw Eugene Graham leaning over the counter,
looking at some sets of pearl and diamonds. He did not perceive her
immediately, and she had an opportunity of scanning his countenance
unobserved. Her lip trembled as she noticed the flushed face and
inflamed eyes, and saw that the hand which held a bracelet was very
unsteady. He looked up, started, and greeted her with evident
embarrassment. She waited until Clara had completed her purchase,
and then said quietly:

"Eugene, are you going away without coming to see me?"

"Why, no; I had intended calling yesterday, but was prevented, and I
am obliged to leave this afternoon. By the way, help me to select
between these two pearl sets. I suppose you can imagine their
destination?"

It was the first time he had alluded to his marriage, and she
answered with an arch smile:

"Oh, yes! I dare say I might guess very accurately. It would not
require Yankee ingenuity."

She examined the jewels, and, after giving an opinion as to their
superiority, turned to go, saying:

"I want to see you a few moments before you leave the city. I am
going home immediately, and any time during the day, when you can
call, will answer."

He looked curious, glanced at his watch, pondered an instant, and
promised to call in an hour.

She bowed and returned home, with an almost intolerable weight on
her heart. She sat with her face buried in her hands, collecting her
thoughts, and, when summoned to meet Eugene, went down with a firm
heart, but trembling frame. It was more than probable that she would
be misconstrued and wounded, but she determined to hazard all,
knowing how pure were the motives that actuated her. He seemed
restless and ill at ease, yet curious withal, and, after some
trifling commonplace remarks, Beulah seated herself on the sofa
beside him, and said:

"Eugene, why have you shunned me so pertinaciously since your return
from Europe?"

"I have not shunned you, Beulah; you are mistaken. I have been
engaged, and therefore could visit but little."

"Do not imagine that any such excuses blind me to the truth," said
she, with an impatient gesture.

"What do you mean?" he answered, unable to bear the earnest,
troubled look of the searching eyes.

"Oh, Eugene! be honest--be honest! Say at once you shunned me lest I
should mark your altered habits in your altered face. But I know it
all, notwithstanding. It is no secret that Eugene Graham has more
than once lent his presence to midnight carousals over the wine-cup.
Once you were an example of temperance and rectitude, but vice is
fashionable and patronized in this city, and your associates soon
dragged you down from your proud height to their degraded level. The
circle in which you move were not shocked at your fall. Ladies
accustomed to hear of drunken revels ceased to attach disgrace to
them, and you were welcomed and smiled upon, as though you were all
a man should be. Oh, Eugene! I understand why you have carefully
shunned one who has an unconquerable horror of that degradation into
which you have fallen. I am your friend, your best and most
disinterested friend. What do your fashionable acquaintances care
that your moral character is impugned and your fair name tarnished?
Your dissipation keeps their brothers and lovers in countenance;
your once noble, unsullied nature would shame their depravity. Do
you remember one bright, moonlight night, about six years ago, when
we sat in Mrs. Williams' room at the asylum and talked of our
future? Then, with a soul full of pure aspirations, you said:
'Beulah, I have written "Excelsior" on my banner, and I intend, like
that noble youth, to press forward over every obstacle, mounting at
every step, until I too stand on the highest pinnacle and plant my
banner where its glorious motto shall float over the world!'
'Excelsior!' Ah, my brother, that banner trails in the dust! Alpine
heights tower far behind you, dim in the distance, and now with
another motto--'Lower still'--you are rushing down to an awful gulf.
Oh, Eugene! do you intend to go on to utter ruin? Do you intend to
wreck happiness, health, and character in the sea of reckless
dissipation? Do you intend to spend your days in disgusting
intoxication? I would you had a mother, whose prayers might save
you, or a father, whose gray hairs you dared not dishonor, or a
sister to win you back from ruin. Oh, that you and I had never,
never left the sheltering walls of the asylum!"

She wept bitterly, and, more moved than he chose to appear, Eugene
shaded his face with his fingers. Beulah placed her hand on his
shoulder, and continued falteringly:

"Eugene, I am not afraid to tell you the unvarnished truth. You may
get angry, and think it is no business of mine to counsel you, who
are older and master of your own fate; but when we were children I
talked to you freely, and why should I not now? True friendship
strengthens with years, and shall I hesitate to speak to you of what
gives me so much pain? In a very few days you are to be married.
Eugene, if the wine-cup is dearer to you than your beautiful bride,
what prospect of happiness has either of you? I had hoped her
influence would deter you from it, at least during her visit here;
but if not then, how can her presence avail in future? Oh, for
Heaven's sake! for Antoinette's, for your own, quit the ranks of
ruin you are in, and come back to temperance and honor. You are
bowing down Cornelia's proud head in humiliation and sorrow. Oh,
Eugene, have mercy on yourself!"

He tried to look haughty and insulted, but it would not answer. Her
pale face, full of earnest, tearful entreaty, touched his heart, not
altogether indurated by profligate associations. He knew she had not
given an exaggerated account; he had imagined that she would not
hear of his revels; but certainly she told only the truth. Yet he
resolved not to admit the charge, and, shaking off her hand,
answered proudly:

"If I am the degraded character you flatteringly pronounce me, it
should certainly render my society anything but agreeable to your
fastidious taste. I shall not soon forget your unmerited insults."
He rose as he spoke.

"You are angry now, Eugene, because I have held up your own portrait
for your inspection. You are piqued because I tell you the truth.
But when all this has subsided, and you think the matter calmly
over, you will be forced to acknowledge that only the purest
friendship could prompt me to remonstrate with you on your ruinous
career. Of course, if you choose, you can soon wreck yourself; you
are your own master; but the infatuation will recoil upon you. Your
disgrace and ruin will not affect me, save that, as your friend, I
should mourn your fall. Ah, Eugene, I have risked your displeasure--
I have proved my friendship!"

He took his hat and turned toward the door; but she placed herself
before it, and, holding out both hands, exclaimed sorrowfully:

"Do not let us part in anger! I am an orphan without relatives or
protectors, and from early years you have been a kind brother. At
least, let us part as friends. I know that in future we shall be
completely alienated, but your friend Beulah will always rejoice to
hear of your welfare and happiness; and if her warning words, kindly
meant, have no effect, and she hears, with keen regret, of your
final ruin, she at least will feel that she honestly and anxiously
did all in her power to save you. Good-by. Shake hands, Eugene, and
bear with you to the altar my sincere wishes for your happiness."

She held out her hands entreatingly; but he took no notice of the
movement, and, hurrying by, left the house. For a moment Beulah
bowed her head and sobbed; then she brushed the tears from her
cheek, and the black brows met in a heavy frown. True, she had not
expected much else, yet she felt bitterly grieved, and it was many
months are she ceased to remember the pain of this interview;
notwithstanding the contempt she could not avoid feeling for his
weakness.

The Grahams all accompanied Eugene, and, after the marriage, went
North for the summer. A handsome house was erected near Mr. Graham's
residence, and in the fall the young people were to take possession
of it. Mr. Lockhart rallied sufficiently to be removed to his home
"up the country," and, save Dr. Asbury's family, Beulah saw no one
but Clara and her pupils. With July came the close of the session,
and the young teacher was free again. One afternoon she put on her
bonnet and walked to a distant section of the town to inquire after
Kate Ellison (one of her assistant teachers), who, she happened to
hear, was quite ill. She found her even worse than she had expected,
and, on offering her services to watch over the sick girl, was
anxiously requested to remain with her during the night. She
dispatched a message to Mrs. Hoyt, cheerfully laid aside her bonnet,
and took a seat near the sufferer, while the infirm mother retired
to rest. The family were very poor, and almost entirely dependent on
Kate's salary for a support. The house was small arid comfortless;
the scanty furniture of the plainest kind. About dusk Beulah left
her charge in a sound sleep, and, cautiously opening the blinds,
seated herself on the window sill. The solitary candle on the table
gave but a dim light, and she sat for a long time looking out into
the street and up at the quiet, clear sky. A buggy drew up beneath
the window--she supposed it was the family physician. Mrs. Ellison
had not mentioned his coming, but of course it must be a physician,
and sure enough there was a knock at the door. She straightened one
or two chairs, picked up some articles of clothing scattered about
the floor, and opened the door.

She knew not what doctor Mrs. Ellison employed, and, as her guardian
entered, she drew back with a start of surprise. She had not seen
him since the morning of Pauline's marriage, five months before, and
then he had not noticed her. Now he stopped suddenly, looked at her
a moment, and said, as if much chagrined:

"What are you doing here, Beulah?"

"Nursing Kate, sir. Don't talk so loud; she is asleep," answered
Beulah rather frigidly.

She did not look at him, but knew his eyes were on her face, and
presently he said:

"You are always where you ought not to be. That girl has typhus
fever, and, ten to one, you will take it. In the name of common
sense! why don't you let people take care of their own sick, and
stay at home, instead of hunting up cases like a professed nurse? I
suppose the first confirmed case of smallpox you hear of, you will
hasten to offer your services. You don't intend to spend the night
here, it is to be hoped?"

"Her mother has been sitting up so constantly that she is completely
exhausted, and somebody must assist in nursing Kate. I did not know
that she had any contagious disease; but if she has, I suppose I
might as well run the risk as anybody else. It is but common
humanity to aid the family."

"Oh! if you choose to risk your life it is your own affair. Do not
imagine for an instant that I expected my advice to weigh an iota
with you."

He walked off to Kate, felt her pulse, and, without waking her,
proceeded to replenish the glass of medicine on the table. Beulah
was in no mood to obtrude herself on his attention; she went to the
window, and stood with her back to him. She could not tamely bear
his taunting manner, yet felt that it was out of her power to
retort, for she still reverenced him. She was surprised when he came
up to her, and said abruptly:

"To-day I read an article in 'T----'s Magazine' called the 'Inner
Life,' by 'Delta.'"

A deep crimson dyed her pale face an instant, and her lips curled
ominously, as she replied, in a would-be indifferent tone:

"Well, sir?"

"It is not well, at all. It is very ill. It is most miserable!"

"Well! what do I care for the article in 'T----'s Magazine'? "These
words were jerked out, as it were, with something like a sneer.

"You care more than you will ever be brought to confess. Have you
read this precious 'Inner Life'?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Have you any idea who the author is?"

"Yes, sir; I know the author; but if it had been intended or desired
that the public should know, also, the article would never have
appeared over a fictitious signature."

This "Inner Life," which she had written for the last number of the
magazine, was an allegory, in which she boldly attempted to disprove
the truth of the fact Tennyson has so inimitably embodied in "The
Palace of Art," namely, that love of beauty and intellectual culture
cannot satisfy the God-given aspirations of the soul. Her guardian
fully comprehended the dawning, and as yet unacknowledged dread
which prompted this article, and hastily laying his hand on her
shoulder, he said:

"Ah, proud girl! you are struggling desperately with your heart.
You, too, have reared a 'palace' on dreary, almost inaccessible
crags; and, because already you begin to weary of your isolation,
you would fain hurl invectives at Tennyson, who explores your
mansion, 'so royal, rich, and wide,' and discovers the grim specters
that dwell with you! You were very miserable when you wrote that
sketch; you are not equal to what you have undertaken. Child, this
year of trial and loneliness has left its impress on your face. Are
you not yet willing to give up the struggle?"

The moon had risen, and, as its light shone on her countenance, he
saw a fierce blaze in her eyes he had never noticed there before.
She shook off his light touch, and answered:

"No! I will never give up!"

He smiled, and left her.

She remained with her sick friend until sunrise the next morning,
and ere she left the house was rewarded by the assurance that she
was better. In a few days Kate was decidedly convalescent. Beulah
did not take typhus fever.



CHAPTER XXVII.


The day was sullen, stormy, and dark. Gray, leaden clouds were
scourged through the sky by a howling southeastern gale, and the
lashed waters of the bay broke along the shore with a solemn,
continued boom. The rain fell drearily, and sheet lightning, pale
and constant, gave a ghastly hue to the scudding clouds. It was one
of those lengthened storms which, during the month of August, are so
prevalent along the Gulf coast. Clara Sanders sat near a window,
bending over a piece of needlework, while, with her hands clasped
behind her, Beulah walked up and down the floor. Their countenances
contrasted vividly; Clara's sweet, placid face, with drooped eyelids
and Madonna-like serenity; the soft, auburn hair curled about her
cheeks, and the delicate lips in peaceful rest. And Beulah!--how
shall I adequately paint the gloom and restlessness written in her
stormy countenance? To tell you that her brow was bent and lowering,
that her lips were now unsteady and now tightly compressed, and that
her eyes were full of troubled shadows, would convey but a faint
impression of the anxious discontent which seemed to have taken
entire possession of her. Clara glanced at her, sighed, and went on
with her work; she knew perfectly well she was in no humor for
conversation. The rain increased until it fell in torrents, and the
hoarse thunder muttered a dismal accompaniment. It grew too dark to
see the stitches; Clara put by her work, and, folding her hands on
her lap, sat looking out into the storm, listening to the roar of
the rushing wind, as it bowed the treetops and uplifted the white-
capped billows of the bay. Beulah paused beside the window, and said
abruptly:

"It is typical of the individual, social, moral, and intellectual
life. Look which way you will, you find antagonistic elements
fiercely warring. There is a broken cog somewhere in the machinery
of this plunging globe of ours. Everything organic, and inorganic,
bears testimony to a miserable derangement. There is not a
department of earth where harmony reigns. True, the stars are
serene, and move in their everlasting orbits, with fixed precision,
but they are not of earth; here there is nothing definite, nothing
certain. The seasons are regular, but they are determined by other
worlds. Verily, the contest is still fiercely waged between Ormuzd
and Ahriman, and the last has the best of it, so far. The three
thousand years of Ahriman seem dawning."

She resumed her walk, and, looking after her anxiously, Clara
answered:

"But remember, the 'Zend-Avesta' promises that Ormuzd shall finally
conquer and reign supreme. In this happy kingdom I love to trace the
resemblance to the millennium which was shown St. John on lonely
Patmos."

"It is small comfort to anticipate a time of blessedness for future
generations. What benefit is steam or telegraph to the moldering
mummies of the catacombs? I want to know what good the millennium
will do you and me when our dust is mingled with mother earth, in
some silent necropolis?"

"Oh, Beulah, what ails you to-day? You look so gloomy and wretched.
It seems to me you have changed sadly of late. I knew that a life of
labor such as you voluntarily assumed would chasten your spirit, but
I did not expect this utter revolution of your natura so soon. Oh,
have done with skepticism!"

"Faith in creeds is not to be put on and laid aside at will, like a
garment. Granted that these same doctrines of Zoroaster are faint
adumbrations of the Hebrew creed, the Gordian knot is by no means
loosed. That prologue in 'Faust' horrified you yesterday; yet, upon
my word, I don't see why; for very evidently it is taken from Job,
and Faust is but an ideal Job, tempted in more subtle manner than by
the loss of flocks, houses, and children. You believe that Satan was
allowed to do his utmost to ruin Job, and Mephistopheles certainly
set out on the same fiendish mission. Mephistopheles is not the
defiant demon of Milton, but a powerful prince in the service of
God. You need not shudder; I am giving no partial account; I merely
repeat the opinion of many on this subject. It is all the same to
me. Evil exists: that is the grim fact. As to its origin--I would
about as soon set off to search for the city Asgard."

"Still, I would not give my faith for all your learning and
philosophy. See what it has brought you to," answered Clara
sorrowfully.

"Your faith! what does it teach you of this evil principle?"
retorted Beulah impatiently.

"At least more than all speculation has taught you. You admit that
of its origin you know nothing; the Bible tells me that time was
when earth was sinless, and man holy, and that death and sin entered
the world by man's transgression--"

"Which I don't believe," interrupted Beulah.

"So you might sit there and stop your ears and close your eyes and
assert that this was a sunny, serene day. Your reception or
rejection of the Biblical record by no means affects its
authenticity. My faith teaches that the evil you so bitterly
deprecate is not eternal; shall finally be crushed, and the harmony
you crave pervade all realms. Why an All-wise and All-powerful God
suffers evil to exist is not for his finite creatures to determine.
It is one of many mysteries which it is as utterly useless to bother
over as to weave ropes of sand."

She gathered up her sewing materials, put them in her basket, and
retired to her own room. Beulah felt relieved when the door closed
behind her, and, taking up Theodore Parker's "Discourses," began to
read. Poor, famishing soul! what chaff she eagerly devoured! In her
anxious haste she paused not to perceive that the attempted
refutations of Christianity contained objections more gross and
incomprehensible than the doctrine assailed. Long before she had
arrived at the conclusion that ethical and theological truth must be
firmly established on psychological foundations, hence she plunged
into metaphysics, studying treatise after treatise and system after
system. To her grievous disappointment, however, the psychology of
each seemed different, nay opposed. She set out believing her
"consciousness" the infallible criterion of truth; this she fancied
philosophy taught, at least professed to teach; but instead of
unanimity among metaphysicians, she found fierce denunciation of
predecessors, ingenious refutations of principles which they had
evolved from rigid analysis of the facts of consciousness, and an
intolerant dogmatism which astonished and confused her. One extolled
Locke as an oracle of wisdom; another ridiculed the shallowness of
his investigations and the absurdity of his doctrines; while a third
showed conclusively that Locke's assailant knew nothing at all of
what he wrote, and maintained that he alone could set matters right.
She studied Locke for herself. Either he was right and all the
others were wrong, or else there was no truth in any. Another
philosopher professed to ground some points of his faith on certain
principles of Descartes; the very next work she read proclaimed that
Descartes never held any such principles, that the writer had
altogether mistaken his views; whereupon up started another, who
informed her that nobody knew what Descartes really did believe on
the subject under discussion; that it was a mooted question among
his disciples. This was rather discouraging, but, nothing daunted,
she bought, borrowed, and read on.

Brown's descent upon Reid greatly interested her. True, there were
very many things she could not assent to; yet the arguments seemed
plausible enough, when lo! a metaphysical giant rescues Reid; tells
her that Brown was an ignoramus; utterly misunderstood the theory he
set himself to criticise, and was a wretched bungler; after which he
proceeds to show that although Brown had not acumen enough to
perceive it, Reid had himself fallen into grave errors and culpable
obscurity. Who was right, or who was wrong, she could not for her
life decide. It would have been farcical, indeed, had she not been
so anxiously in earnest. Beginning to distrust herself, and with a
dawning dread lest after all psychology would prove an incompetent
guide, she put by the philosophies themselves and betook herself to
histories of philosophy, fancying that here all bitter invective
would be laid aside, and stern impartiality prevail. Here the evil
she fled from increased fourfold. One historian of philosophy (who
was a great favorite of her guardian), having lost all confidence in
the subjects he treated, set himself to work to show the fallacy of
all systems, from Anaximander to Cousin. She found the historians of
philosophy as much at variance as the philosophers themselves, and
looked with dismay into the dim land of vagaries into which
metaphysics had drawn the brightest minds of the past. Then her
guardian's favorite quotation recurred to her with painful
significance: "There is no criterion of truth; all is merely
subjective truth." It was the old skeptical palladium, ancient as
metaphysics. She began to despair of the truth in this direction;
but it certainly existed somewhere. She commenced the study of
Cousin with trembling eagerness; if at all, she would surely find in
a harmonious "Eclecticism" the absolute truth she has chased through
so many metaphysical doublings. "Eclecticism" would cull for her the
results of all search and reasoning. For a time she believed she had
indeed found a resting-place; his "true" satisfied her; his
"beautiful" fascinated her; but when she came to examine his
"Theodieea," and trace its results, she shrank back appalled. She
was not yet prepared to embrace his subtle pantheism. Thus far had
her sincere inquiries and efforts brought her. It was no wonder her
hopeful nature grew bitter and cynical; no wonder her brow was bent
with puzzled thought and her pale face haggard and joyless. Sick of
systems, she began to search her own soul; did the very thing of all
others best calculated to harass her mind and fill it with
inexplicable mysteries. She constituted her own reason the sole
judge; and then, dubious of the verdict, arraigned reason itself
before itself. Now began the desperate struggle. Alone and unaided,
she wrestled with some of the grimmest doubts that can assail a
human soul. The very prevalence of her own doubts augmented the
difficulty. On every side she saw the footprints of skepticism; in
history, essays, novels, poems, and reviews. Still her indomitable
will maintained the conflict. Her hopes, aims, energies, all
centered in this momentous struggle. She studied over these world-
problems until her eyes grew dim and the veins on her brow swelled
like cords. Often gray dawn looked in upon her, still sitting before
her desk, with a sickly, waning lamplight gleaming over her pallid
face. And to-day, as she looked out on the flying clouds, and
listened to the mournful wail of the rushing gale, she seemed to
stand upon the verge of a yawning chaos. What did she believe? She
knew not. Old faiths had crumbled away; she stood in a dreary waste,
strewn with the wreck of creeds and systems; a silent desolation!
And with Richter's Christ she exclaimed: "Oh! how is each so
solitary in this wide grave of the All? I am alone with myself. Oh,
Father! oh, Father, where is thy infinite bosom, that I might rest
on it?" A belief in something she must have; it was an absolute
necessity of the soul. There was no scoffing tendency in her
skepticism; she could not jest over the solemn issues involved, and
stood wondering which way she should next journey after this "pearl
of great price." It was well for her that garlands of rhetoric and
glittering logic lay over the pitfalls before her; for there were
unsounded abysses, darker than any she had yet endeavored to fathom.
Clara came back, and softly laid her hand on her friend's arm.

"Please put up your book and sing something for me, won't you?"

Beulah looked at the serene countenance, so full of resignation, and
answered gloomily:

"What! are you, too, tired of listening to this storm-anthem nature
has treated us to for the last two days? It seems to me the very
universe, animate and inanimate, is indulging in an uncontrollable
fit of the 'blues.' One would almost think the dead-march was being
played up and down the aisles of creation."

She pressed her hands to her hot brow, as if to wipe away the
cobwebs that dimmed her vision, and, raising the lid of the piano,
ran her fingers over the keys.

"Sing me something hopeful and heart-cheering," said Clara.

"I have no songs of that description."

"Yes, you have: 'Look Aloft' and the 'Psalm of Life.'"

"No, no. Impossible. I could not sing either now," replied Beulah,
averting her face.

"Why not now? They are the excelsior strains of struggling pilgrims.
They were written for the dark hours of life."

"They are a mockery to me. Ask me for anything else," said she,
compressing her lips.

Clara leaned her arm on the piano, and, looking sadly at her
companion, said, as if with a painful effort:

"Beulah, in a little while we shall be separated, and only the All-
Father knows whether we shall meet on earth again. My application
for that situation as governess up the country brought me an answer
to-day. I am to go very soon."

Beulah made no reply, and Clara continued sorrowfully:

"It is very painful to leave my few remaining friends and go among
perfect strangers, but it is best that I should." She leaned her
head on her hand, and wept.

"Why is it best?"

"Because here I am constantly reminded of other days and other
hopes, now lying dead on my heart. But we will not speak of this. Of
all my ties here, my love for you is now the strongest. Oh, Beulah,
our friendship has been sacred, and I dread the loneliness which
will be my portion when hundreds of miles lie between us! The links
that bind orphan hearts like ours are more lasting than all others."

"I shall be left entirely alone, if you accept this situation. You
have long been my only companion. Don't leave me, Clara," murmured
Beulah, while her lips writhed and quivered.

"You will have the Asburys still, and they are sincere friends."

"Yes, friends, but not companions. What congeniality is there
between those girls and myself? None. My isolation will be complete
when you leave me."

"Beulah, will you let me say what is in my heart?"

"Say it freely, my brown-eyed darling."

"Well, then, Beulah; give it up; give it up. It will only bow down
your heart with untold cares and sorrows."

"Give up what?"

"This combat with loneliness and poverty."

"I am not lonely," answered Beulah, with a wintry smile.

"Oh, Beulah! yes, you are; wretchedly lonely. I have been but a poor
companion for you; intellectually, you are far beyond me, and there
has been little congeniality in our tastes and pursuits. I have
always known this; and I know, too, that you never will be a happy
woman until you have a companion equal in intellect, who understands
and sympathizes with you. Ah, Beulah! with all your stubborn pride,
and will, and mental endowments, you have a woman's heart; and crush
its impulses as you may, it will yet assert its sway. As I told you
long ago, grammars, and geographies, and duty could not fill the
void in my heart; and, believe me, neither will metaphysics and
philosophy and literature satisfy you. Suppose you do attain
celebrity as a writer. Can the plaudits of strangers bring back to
your solitary hearth the loved dead, or cheer you in your hours of
gloom? I too am an orphan; I speak of what I can appreciate. You are
mistaken, Beulah, in thinking you can dispense with sympathy. You
are not sufficient for yourself, as you have so proudly maintained.
God has created us for companionship; it is a necessity of human
nature."

"Then why are you and I orphaned for all time?" asked Beulah coldly.

"The sablest clouds of sorrow have silver linings. Perhaps that you
and I might turn more continually to the God of orphans. Beulah, God
has not flooded earth with eternal sunlight. He knew that shadows
were needed to chasten the spirits of his children, and teach them
to look to him for the renewal of all blessings. But shadows are
fleeting, and every season of gloom has its morning star. Oh, I
thank God that his own hand arranged the chiaroscuro of earth!" She
spoke earnestly; the expression of her eyes told that her thoughts
had traveled into the dim, weird land of futurity. Beulah offered no
comment; but the gloom deepened on her brow and her white fingers
crept restlessly over the piano keys. After a moment's silence,
Clara continued:

"I would not regret our separation so much if I left you in the
possession of Christian faith; armed with a perfect trust in the
religion of Jesus Christ. Oh, Beulah, it makes my heart ache when I
think of you, struggling so fiercely in the grasp of infidelity!
Many times have I seen the light shining beneath your door, long
after midnight, and wept over the conflict in which I knew you were
engaged; and only God knows how often I have mingled your name in my
prayers, entreating him to direct you in your search, to guide you
safely through the paths of skepticism, and place your weary feet
upon the 'rock of ages.' Oh, Beulah, do not make my prayers vain by
your continued questioning! Come back to Christ and the Bible."
Tears glided down her cheeks as she passed her arm round her friend,
and dropped her head on her shoulder. Beulah's eyelids trembled an
instant, but there was no moisture in the gray depths, as she
answered:

"Thank you, Clara, for your interest. I am glad you have this faith
you would fain lead me to. Not for worlds would I unsettle it, even
if I could. You are comforted in your religion, and it is a
priceless blessing to you. But I am sincere, even in my skepticism.
I am honest; and God, if he sees my heart, sees that I am. I may be
an infidel, as you call me, but, if so, I am an honest one; and if
the Bible is all true, as you believe, God will judge my heart. But
I shall not always be skeptical; I shall find the truth yet. I know
it is a tedious journey I have set out on, and it may be my life
will be spent in the search; but what of that, if at last I attain
the goal? What if I only live to reach it? What will my life be to
me without it?"

"And can you contentedly contemplate your future, passed as this
last year has been?" cried Clara.

"Perhaps 'contentedly' is scarcely the right term. I shall not
murmur, no matter how dreary the circumstances of my life may be,
provided I succeed at last," replied Beulah resolutely.

"Oh, Beulah, you make my heart ache!"

"Then try not to think of or care for me."

"There is another heart, dear Beulah, a heart sad but noble, that
you are causing bitter anguish. Are you utterly indifferent to this
also?"

"All of the last exists merely in your imagination. We will say no
more about it, if you please."

She immediately began a brilliant overture, and Clara retreated to
the window. With night the roar of the tempest increased; the rain
fell with a dull, uninterrupted patter, the gale swept furiously on,
and the heaving, foaming waters of the bay gleamed luridly beneath
the sheet-lightning. Clara stood looking out, and before long Beulah
joined her; then the former said suddenly:

"Do you remember that, about six years ago, a storm like this tossed
the 'Morning Star' far from its destined track, and for many days it
was unheard of? Do you remember, too, that it held one you loved;
and that, in an agony of dread lest he should find a grave among
coral beds, you bowed your knee in prayer to Almighty God, imploring
him to calm the tempest, hush the gale, and save him who was so dear
to you? Ah, Beulah, you distrusted human pilots then!"

As Beulah made no reply, she fancied she was pondering her words.
But memory had flown back to the hour when she knelt in prayer for
Eugene, and she thought she could far better have borne his death
then, in the glorious springtime of his youth, than know that he had
fallen from his noble height. Then she could have mourned his loss
and cherished his memory ever after; now she could only pity and
despise his folly. What was that early shipwreck she so much
dreaded, in comparison with the sea of vice, whose every wave tossed
him helplessly on to ruin. He had left her an earnest believer in
religion; he came back scoffing at everything sacred. This much she
had learned from Cornelia. Was there an intimate connection between
the revolutions in his nature? Misled by her silence, Clara said
eagerly:

"You were happy in that early faith. Oh, Beulah, you will never find
another so holy, so comforting!"

Beulah frowned and looked up impatiently.

"Clara, I am not to be persuaded into anything. Leave me to myself.
You are kind, but mistaken."

"If I have said too much, forgive me; I was actuated by sincere
affection and pity for your state of mind."

"I am not an object of pity by any means," replied Beulah very
coldly.

Clara was unfortunate in her expressions; she seemed to think so,
and turned away. But, conscious of having spoken hastily, Beulah
caught her hand, and exclaimed frankly:

"Do not be hurt with me; I did not intend to wound you. Forgive me,
Clara. Don't go. When are you to leave for your new home?"

"Day after to-morrow. Mr. Arlington seems anxious that I should come
immediately. He has three children--a son and two daughters. I hope
they are amiable; I dread lest they prove unruly and spoiled. If so,
woe to their governess."

"Does Mr. Arlington reside in the village to which you directed your
letter?"

"No. He resides on his plantation, several miles from the village.
The prospect of being in the country is the only redeeming feature
in the arrangement. I hope my health will be permanently restored by
the change; but of the success of my plan only time can decide."

"And when shall we meet again?" said Beulah slowly.

"Perhaps henceforth our paths diverge widely. We may meet no more on
earth; but, dear Beulah, there is a 'peaceful shore, where billows
never beat nor tempests roar,' where assuredly we shall spend an
eternity together if we keep the faith here. Oh, if I thought our
parting now was for all time I should mourn bitterly, very bitterly;
but I will not believe it. The arms of our God support you. I shall
always pray that he will guide and save you." She leaned forward,
kissed Beulah's forehead, and left the room.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


One afternoon in October the indisposition of one of her music
pupils released Beulah earlier than usual, and she determined to
seize this opportunity and visit the asylum. Of the walk across the
common she never wearied; the grass had grown brown, and, save the
deep, changeless green of the ancient pines, only the hectic
coloring of the dying year met her eye. The day was cool and windy,
and the common presented a scene of boisterous confusion, which she
paused to contemplate. A number of boys had collected to play their
favorite games; balls flew in every direction and merry shouts rang
cheerily through the air. She looked on a few moments at their
careless, happy sports, and resumed her walk, feeling that their
joyousness was certainly contagious, she was so much lighter-hearted
from having watched their beaming faces and listened to their
ringing laughter.

As she drew near the asylum gate memory began to pass its fingers
over her heart; but here, too, sounds of gladness met her. The
orphans were assembled on the lawn in front of the building,
chatting as cheerfully as though they were all members of one
family. The little ones trundled hoops and chased each other up and
down the graveled walks; some of the boys tossed their balls, and a
few of the larger girls were tying up chrysanthemums to slender
stakes. They were dressed alike; all looked contented, neat, and
happy, and their rosy faces presented a noble tribute to the
efficacy and untold blessings of the institution. To many of them
Beulah was well known. She threw off her bonnet and shawl, and
assisted the girls in their work among the flowers, while the little
ones gathered around her, lisping their childish welcome and coaxing
her to join in their innocent games. The stately China trees, where,
in years gone by, Lilly and Claudy had watched the chirping robins,
were again clad in their rich, golden livery; and, as Beulah looked
up at the red brick walls that had sheltered her head in the early
days of orphanage, it seemed but yesterday that she trod these walks
and listened to the wintry wind sighing through these same loved
trees. The children told her that their matron had been sick and was
not yet quite well, and, needing no pilot, Beulah went through the
house in search of her. She found her at last in the storeroom,
giving out materials for the evening meal, and had an opportunity of
observing the change which had taken place in the last few months.
She was pale and thin, and her sharpened features wore a depressed,
weary expression; but, turning round, she perceived Beulah, and a
glad smile broke instantly over her countenance as she clasped the
girl's hand in both hers.

"Dear child, I have looked for you a long time. I did not think you
would wait so many weeks. Come in and sit down."

"I did not know you had been sick until I came and heard the
children speak of it. You should have sent met word. I see you have
not entirely recovered."

"No; I am quite feeble yet; but, in time, I hope I shall be well
again. Ah, Beulah, I have wanted to see you so much! so much! Child,
it seems to me I shall never get used to being separated from you."

Beulah sat on the sofa near her, and the matron's withered hands
were passed caressingly over the glossy bands of hair which lay on
the orphan's white temples.

"I love to come here occasionally; it does me good. But not too
often; that would be painful, you know."

Beulah spoke in a subdned voice, while memory painted the evening
when Eugene had sought her in this apartment and wiped away her
tears for Lilly's absence. Her features twitched as she thought of
the bitter changes that rolling years work, and she sighed
unconsciously. The matron's hands were still smoothing her hair, and
presently she said, with an anxious, scrutinizing look:

"Have you been sick since you were here last?"

"No. What makes you imagine such a thing?"

"Dear child, I do not imagine; I know you look worn and ill. Why,
Beulah, hold up your hand; there, see how transparent it is! Almost
like wax! Something ails you, child; that I know well enough."

"No, I assure you, I am not ill. Sometimes, of late, I have been
troubled with the old headaches you used to cure when I was a child;
but, on the whole, I am well."

"Beulah, they tell me Eugene is married," said the kind-hearted
woman, with another look at the quiet face beside her.

"Yes; he was married nearly five months ago." A tremor passed over
her lips as she spoke.

"Did you see his wife?"

"Yes; she is a very pretty woman. I may say, a beautiful woman; but
she does not suit him. At least, I am afraid she will not."

"Ah, I knew as much! I thought as much!" cried Mrs. Williams.

"Why?" asked Beulah wonderingly.

"Oh, money cloaks all faults, child. I knew he did not marry her for
love!"

Beulah started a little, and said hastily:

"You do him injustice--great injustice! Eugene was charmed by her
beauty, not her fortune?"

"Oh, heiresses are always beautiful and charming in the eyes of the
world! Beulah, do you know that I watched for Eugene, for days, and
weeks, and months after his return from Europe? I wanted to see him-
-oh, so much! I loved you both as though you were my own children. I
was so proud of that boy! I had raised him from a crawling infant,
and never dreamed that he would forget me. But he did not come. I
have not seen him since he left, six years ago, for Germany. Oh, the
boy has pained me--pained me! I loved him so much!"

Beulah's brow clouded heavily, as she said:

"It is better so--better that you should not see him. He is not what
he was when he quitted us."

"Is it true, then, that he drinks--that he is wild and dissipated? I
heard it once, but would not believe it. Oh, it can't be that Eugene
drinks?"

"Yes, he drinks--not to stupid intoxication, but too freely for his
health and character. He does not look like himself now."

Mrs. Williams bowed down her head and wept bitterly, while Beulah
continued sorrowfully:

"His adoption was his ruin. Had he remained dependent on his
individual exertions he would have grown up an honor to himself and
his friends. But Mr. Graham is considered very wealthy, and Eugene
weakly desisted from the honest labor which was his duty. His
fashionable associates have ruined him. In Europe he learned to
drink, and here his companions dragged him constantly into scenes of
dissipation. But I do not despair of him yet. It may be long before
he awakens from this infatuation; but I trust he will yet reform. I
cannot bear to think of him as a confirmed drunkard! Oh, no! no! I
may be wrong, but I still hope that his nobler nature will conquer."

"God help the boy! I have prayed for him for years, and I shall pray
for him still, though he has forgotten me."

She sobbed, and covered her face with her apron. A joyless smile
flitted over Beulah's fixed, grave features, as she said
encouragingly:

"He will come to see you when he returns from the North. He has not
forgotten you--that is impossible. Like me, he owes you too much."

"I shall leave here very soon," said Mrs. Williams, wiping her eyes.

"Leave the asylum! for what?"

"I am getting old, child, and my health is none of the best. The
duties are very heavy here, and I am not willing to occupy the
position unless I could discharge all the duties faithfully. I have
sent in my resignation to the managers, and as soon as they succeed
in getting another matron, I shall leave the asylum. I am sorry to
be obliged to go; I have been here so long that I am very much
attached to the place and the children. But I am not able to do what
I have done, and I know it is right that I should give up the
position."

"What are you going to do?"

"I have means enough to live plainly the remainder of my life. I
intend to rent or buy a small house, and settle down and be quiet. I
feel now as if I should like to spend my days in peace."

"Do you intend to live alone?"

"Yes, child; except a servant, I suppose I shall be quite alone. But
you will come to see me often, and perhaps Eugene will remember me
some day, when he is in trouble."

"No, I shall not come to see you at all! I mean to come and live
with you--that is, if I may?" cried Beulah, springing up and laying
her hand on the matron's.

"God bless you, dear child; how glad I shall be!" She wound her arms
round the slender form, and laughed through her tears.

Beulah gently put back the gray locks that had fallen from the
border of her cap, and said hopefully:

"I am sick of boarding--sick of town! Let us get a nice little
house, where I can walk in and out to my school. Have you selected
any particular place?"

"No. I have looked at two or three, but none suited me exactly. Now
you can help me. I am so thankful you are going to be with me! Will
you come as soon as I can be released here?"

"Yes; just as soon as you are ready for me; and I think I know a
house for rent which will just suit us. Now I want it understood
that I am to pay the rent."

"Oh, no, child! I won't hear to it, for I am--"

"Very well, then; I will stay where I am."

"Oh, Beulah! you are not in earnest?"

"Yes, I am; so say no more about it. I will come on no other
condition. I will see the owner of the house, ascertain what I can
obtain it for, and send you word. Then you can look at it and
decide."

"I am quite willing to trust it to you, child; only I can't bear the
thought of your paying the rent for it. But we can arrange that
afterward."

"No; you must be perfectly satisfied with the house. I will go by
this evening and find out about it, so as to let you know at once.
Have you any idea when the 'board' will procure another matron?"

"They have advertised, and several persons applied, I believe, but
they were not exactly pleased with the applicants. I suppose,
however, that in a few days they will find a substitute for me."

"Well, be sure you get a good servant; and now I must go."

She put on her bonnet and shawl with unwonted haste, and ran down
the steps. In her frequent walks she had noticed two cottages in
course of erection, not very far from the pine grove in front of the
asylum, and now, crossing the common, she directed her steps toward
them. The lots were small, and belonged to Dr. Asbury, who said he
would build a couple of cottages for poor families to rent at cheap
rates. As Beulah approached the houses she saw the doctor's buggy
standing near the door, and, thinking it a good omen, quickened her
steps. Each building contained only three rooms and a hall, with a
gallery or rather portico in front. They were genuine cottages
ornes, built after Downing's plans, and presented a tasteful,
inviting appearance. The windows were arched and the woodwork
elaborately carved. Beulah pushed open the freshly painted gate, ran
up the steps and into the hall. The carpenters were still at work in
the kitchen, and, as she conjectured, here she found her friend,
giving some final directions. She looked round the snug little
kitchen, and, walking up to Dr. Asbury, who stood with his back to
the door, she shook his hand with a cheerful salutation.

"Halloo, Beulah! where did you drop from? Glad to see you. Glad to
see you. How came you prying into my new houses? Answer me that! Did
you see my spouse as you came through the hall?"

"No; I will go back and hunt for her--"

"You need not; there she comes down the steps of the house. She
would insist on seeing about some shelves for this precious kitchen;
thinks I am bound to put pantries, and closets, and shelves all over
the house, for my future tenants. I suppose before the first poor
family takes possession I shall be expected to fill the closet with
table linen and cutlery, and the larder with sugar, flour, and wax
candles. Look here, Mrs. Asbury, how many more shelves is this
kitchen to have?"

"It is well she has a conscience, sir, since nature denied you one,"
answered Beulah, whom Mrs. Asbury received very affectionately.

"Conscience! Bless my soul! she has none, as regards my unlucky
purse. Positively she wanted to know, just now, if I would not have
that little patch of ground between the house and the paling laid
off into beds; and if I would not plant a few rose bushes and vines,
for the first rascally set of children to tear up by the roots, just
as soon as their parents moved in. There's conscience for you with a
vengeance."

"And what did you say, sir?"

"What did I say? Why, just what every other meek husband says to
appeals which 'won't cost much, you know.' Of course I had no
opinion of my own. Madame, here, is infallible; so I am put down for
maybe a hundred dollars more. You need not have asked the result,
you true daughter of Eve; every one of you understand wheedling.
Those two mischievous imps of mine are almost as great adepts as
their mother. Hey, Beulah, no whispering there! You look as wise as
an owl. What am I to do next? Paper the walls and fresco the
ceilings? Out with it."

"I want to ask, sir, how much rent your conscience will allow you to
demand for this pigeon-box of a house?"

"Well, I had an idea of asking two hundred dollars for it. Cheap
enough at that. You may have it for two hundred," said he, with a
good-humored nod toward Beulah.

"Very well, I will take it at that, provided Mrs. Williams likes it
as well as I do. In a day or two I will determine."

"In the name of common sense, Beulah, what freak is this?" said the
doctor, looking at her with astonishment.

"I am going to live with the matron of the asylum, whom you know
very well. I think this house will suit us exactly, and the rent
suits my purse far better than a larger building would. I am tired
of boarding. I want a little home of my own, where, when the labors
of school are over, I can feel at ease. The walk twice a day will
benefit me, I feel assured. You need not look so dismal and
perplexed; I will make a capital tenant. Your door-facings shan't be
pencil-marked; your windows shan't be broken, nor your gate swung
off its hinges. As for those flowers you are so anxious to plant,
and that patch of ground you are so much interested in, it shall
blossom like the plain of Sharon."

He looked at her wistfully; took off his spectacles, wiped them with
the end of his coat, and said dubiously:

"What does Hartwell think of this project?"

"I have not consulted him."

"The plain English of which is that, whether he approves or
condemns, you are determined to carry out this new plan? Take care,
Beulah; remember the old adage about 'cutting off your nose to spite
your face.'"

"Rather malapropos. Dr. Asbury," said she indifferently.

"I am an old man, Beulah, and know something of life and the world."

"Nay, George; why dissuade her from this plan? If she prefers this
quiet little home to the cenfinement and bustle of a boarding house,
if she thinks she would be happier here with Mrs. Williams than in
the heart of the city, why should not she come? Suffer her to judge
for herself. I am disposed to applaud her choice," interrupted Mrs.
Asbury.

"Alice, do you suppose she will be satisfied to bury herself out
here, with an infirm old woman for a companion? Here she must have
an early breakfast, trudge through rain and cold into town; teach
stupid little brats till evening; then listen to others equally
stupid; thrum over music lessons, and, at last, tired out, drag
herself back here about dark, when it is too late to see whether her
garden is a cotton patch or a peach orchard! Will you please to tell
me what enjoyment there is for one of her temperament in such a
treadmill existence?"

"Your picture is all shadow. George; and, even if it were not, she
is the best judge of what will promote her happiness. Do not
discourage her. Ah, humble as the place is, I know how her heart
aches for a spot she can call 'home.' These three rooms will be a
haven of rest for her when the day is done. My dear Beulah, I trust
you may be very happy here, or wherever you decide to live; you
deserve to be."

"Thank you, madam, for your friendly sympathy. I am glad you approve
my design."

"Well, well; if you soon weary of this freak you can easily give up
the house, that is all. Now, Beulah, if you determine to take it,
rest assured I will gladly make any additions or alterations you may
suggest. I dare say I shall like you for a tenant. But see here,
Mrs. Asbury, I have patients to look after. Please to remember that
I am a professional character, consequently can call no moment my
own. What! another row of shelves round that side? This building
houses for rent is a ruinous speculation! Come, it is too late now
to go over the rooms again; to-morrow will do as well. Beulah, are
you going to play cook, too?"

"No, indeed! Mrs. Williams will find us a servant. Good-by. I will
decide about the house as soon as possible."

The following day she dispatched a note to the matron with
information concerning the house; and at the close of the week all
arrangements were completed, so that they might take possession as
soon as a new matron was secured. Thus the last of October glided
swiftly away, and one cold, clear day in November Beulah was
notified that Mrs. Williams was comfortably settled in the new home.
She went to school as usual, and when the recitations were ended,
started out with a glad heart and springing step. In half an hour
she reached the little white gate, and found Mrs. Williams waiting
there to welcome her. Everything was new and neat; the tastefully
selected carpets were not tapestry, but cheap ingrain; the snowy
curtains were of plain dimity, with rose-colored borders, and the
tea table held, instead of costly Sevres, simple white china, with a
band of gilt. A bright fire crackled and glowed in the chimney, and,
as Beulah stood on the hearth and glanced round the comfortable
little room, which was to be both parlor and dining room, she felt
her heart thrill with delight, and exclaimed:

"This is home! at last I feel that I have a home of my own. Not the
Rothschilds, in their palaces, are so happy as I!"

For years she had been a wanderer, with no hearthstone, and now, for
the first time since her father's death she was at home. Not the
home of adoption; nor the cheerless room of a boarding house, but
the humble home which labor and rigid economy had earned for her.
Her heart bounded with joy; an unwonted glow suffused her cheeks,
and her parted lips trembled. The evening passed quickly, and when
she retired to her own room she was surprised to find a handsome
rosewood bookcase and desk occupying one corner. She opened the
glass doors and saw her books carefully arranged on the shelves.
Could her guardian have sent it? No; since her refusal of the watch,
she felt sure he would not have offered it. A small note lay on the
shelf, and, recognizing the delicate handwriting, she read the
lines, containing these words:

"BEULAH: Accept the accompanying case and desk as a slight testimony
of the affection of

"Your sincere friend,

"ALICE ASBURY."

Tears sprang into her eyes as she opened the desk and discovered an
elegant pen and pencil and every convenience connected with writing.
Turning away, she saw beside the fire a large, deep easy-chair,
cushioned with purple morocco, and knew it was exactly like one she
had often seen in Dr. Asbury's library. On the back was pinned a
narrow slip of paper, and she read, in the doctor's scrawling,
quaint writing:

"Child, don't be too proud to use it."

She was not. Throwing herself into the luxurious chair, she broke
the seal of a letter received that day from Pauline Mortimor. Once
before, soon after her marriage, a few lines of gay greeting had
come, and then many months had elapsed. As she unfolded the sheet
she saw, with sorrow, that in several places it was blotted with
tears; and the contents, written in a paroxysm of passion, disclosed
a state of wretchedness which Beulah little suspected. Pauline's
impulsive, fitful nature was clearly indexed in the letter, and,
after a brief apology for her long silence, she wrote as follows:

"Oh, Beulah, I am so miserable; so very, very wretched Beulah,
Ernest does not love me! You will scarcely believe me, Oh, I hardly
know how to believe it myself! Uncle Guy was right; I do not suit
Ernest. But I loved him so very, very dearly, and thought him so
devoted to me. Fool that I was! my eyes are opened at last. Beulah,
it nearly drives me wild to think that I am bound to him for life,
an unloved wife. Not a year has passed since our marriage, yet
already he has tired of my 'pretty face.' Oh, Beulah, if I could
only come to you, and put my arms round your neck, and lay my poor,
weary head down on your shoulder, then I could tell you all--"

[Here several sentences were illegible from tears, and she could
only read what followed.]

"Since yesterday morning Ernest has not spoken to me. While I write
he is sitting in the next room, reading, as cold, indifferent, and
calm as if I were not perfectly wretched. He is tyrannical; and
because I do not humor all his whims, and have some will of my own,
he treats me with insulting indifference. He is angry now because I
resented some of his father's impertinent speeches about my dress.
This is not the first nor the second time that we have quarreled. He
has an old-maid sister who is forever meddling about my affairs and
sneering at my domestic arrangements; and because I finally told her
I believed I was mistress of my own house Ernest has never forgiven
me. Ellen (the sister I loved and went to school with) has married
and moved to a distant part of the State. The other members of his
family are bigoted, proud, and parsimonious, and they have chiefly
made the breach between us. Oh, Beulah, if I could only undo the
past, and be Pauline Chilton once more! Oh, if I could be free and
happy again! But there is no prospect of that. I am his wife, as he
told me yesterday, and suppose I must drag out a miserable
existence. Yet I will not be trampled on by his family! His sister
spends much of her time with us; reads to Ernest, talks to him about
things that she glories in telling me I don't understand the first
word of. Beulah, I was anxious to study and make myself a companion
for him; but, try as I may, Lucy contrives always to fret and thwart
me. Two days ago she nearly drove me beside myself with her sneers
and allusions to my great mental inferiority to Ernest (as if I were
not often enough painfully reminded of the fact without any of her
assistance!). I know I should not have said it, but I was too angry
to think of propriety, and told her that her presence in my home was
very disagreeable. Oh, if you could have seen her insulting smile,
as she answered that her 'noble brother needed her, and she felt it
a duty to remain with him.' Beulah, I love my husband; I would do
anything on earth to make him happy if we were left to ourselves,
but as to submitting to Lucy's arrogance and sneers, I will not!
Ernest requires me to apologize to his father and sister, and I told
him I would not! I would die first! He does not love me or he would
shield me from such trials. He thinks his sister is perfection, and
I tell you I do absolutely detest her. Now, Beulah, there is no one
else to whom I would mention my unhappiness. Mother does not suspect
it, and never shall, even when she visits me. Uncle Guy predicted
it, and I would not have him know it for the universe. But I can
trust you; I feel that you will sympathize with me, and I want you
to counsel me. Oh, tell me what I ought to do to rid myself of this
tormenting sister-in-law and father-in-law, and, I may say, all
Ernest's kin. Sometimes, when I think of the future, I absolutely
shudder; for if matters go on this way much longer I shall learn to
hate my husband too. He knew my disposition before he married me,
and has no right to treat me as he does. If it were only Ernest I
could bring myself to 'obey' him, for I love him very devotedly; but
as to being dictated to by all his relatives, I never will! Beulah,
burn this blurred letter; don't let anybody know how drearily I am
situated. I am too proud to have my misery published. To know that
people pitied me would kill me. I never can be happy again, but
perhaps you can help me to be less miserable. Do write to me! Oh,
how I wish you could come to me! I charge you, Beulah, don't let
Uncle Guy know that I am not happy. Good-by. Oh, if ever you marry,
be sure your husband has no old-maid sisters and no officious kin! I
am crying so that I can barely see the lines. Good-by, dear Beulah."

"PAULINE."

Beulah leaned forward and dropped the letter into the glowing mass
of coals. It shriveled, blazed, and vanished, and, with a heavy
sigh, she sat pondering the painful contents. What advice could she
possibly give that would remedy the trouble? She was aware that the
young wife must indeed have been "very wretched" before she could
consent to disclose her domestic feuds to another. Under happier
auspices she felt that Pauline would have made a devoted, gentle
wife, but feared it was now too late to mold her character in
conformity with her husband's wishes. "So much for a union of
uncongenial natures," thought Beulah, as she prepared to answer the
unlucky letter. As guardedly as possible she alluded to Mr. Mortimor
and his family, and urged Pauline to talk to her husband gently but
firmly, and assure him that the continued interference of his family
was unendurable. If her remonstrances proved futile, to do what she
considered due to herself as mistress of her own establishment, and
try not to notice the annoyances of others. Beulah felt and
acknowledged her inability to advise the young wife in the difficult
position in which she was placed, and closed by assuring her that
only her own good sense, guided by sincere love for her husband,
could rightly direct her course. She was warmly attached to Pauline,
and it was with a troubled heart that she addressed her reply.



CHAPTER XXIX.


The Grahams were all at home again, and Eugene and his bride had
been for several weeks fairly settled in their elegant new house.
Beulah had seen none of the family since their return, for her time
was nearly all occupied, and as soon as released from school she
gladly hurried out to her little home. One evening as she left the
academy Mr. Graham's spirited horses dashed up to the gate, and the
coachman handed her a note. It was from Mrs. Graham.

"MISS BENTON:

"Cornelia is quite indisposed, and begs that you will call and see
her this afternoon. As it threatens rain, I send the carriage.

"S. GRAHAM."

Beulah crumpled the note between her fingers, and hesitated. The
coachman perceived her irresolution, and hastened to say:

"You needn't be afraid of the horses, miss. Miss Nett' rides so much
they are tamed down."

"I am not at all afraid of the horses. Has Cornelia been sick since
her return from the North?"

"Why, miss, she came home worse than ever. She has not been
downstairs since. She is sick all the time now."

Beulah hesitated no longer. Mrs. Graham met her at the door, and
greeted her more cordially than she had done on any previous
occasion. She looked anxious and weary, and said, as she led the way
to her daughter's apartment:

"We are quite uneasy about Cornelia; you will find her sadly
altered." She ushered Beulah into the room, then immediately
withdrew.

Cornelia was propped up by cushions and pillows in her easy-chair;
her head was thrown back, and her gaze appeared to be riveted on a
painting which hung opposite. Beulah stood beside her a moment,
unnoticed, and saw with painful surprise the ravages which disease
had made in the once beautiful face and queenly form. The black,
shining hair was cut short, and clustered in thick, wavy locks about
the wan brow, now corrugated as by some spasm of pain. The cheeks
were hollow and ghastly pale; the eyes sunken, but unnaturally large
and brilliant; and the colorless lips compressed as though to bear
habitual suffering. Her wasted hands, grasping the arms of the
chair, might have served as a model for a statue of death, so thin,
pale, almost transparent. Beulah softly touched one of them, and
said:

"Cornelia, you wished to see me."

The invalid looked at her intently, and smiled.

"I thought you would come. Ah, Beulah, do you recognize this wreck
as your former friend?"

"I was not prepared to find you so changed; for until this afternoon
I was not aware your trip had been so fruitless. Do you suffer
much?"

"Suffer! Yes; almost all the time. But it is not the bodily torture
that troubles me so much--I could bear that in silence. It is my
mind, Beulah; my mind."

She pointed to a chair; Beulah drew it near her, and Cornelia
continued:

"I thought I should die suddenly; but it is to be otherwise The
torture is slow, lingering. I shall never leave this house again,
except to go to my final home. Beulah, I have wanted to see you very
much; I thought you would hear of my illness and come. How calm and
pale you are! Give me your hand. Ah, cool and pleasant; mine parched
with fever. And you have a little home of your own, I hear. How have
things gone with you since we parted? Are you happy?"

"My little home is pleasant, and my wants are few," replied Beulah.

"Have you seen Eugene recently?"

"Not since his marriage."

A bitter laugh escaped Cornelia's lips, as she writhed an instant,
and then said:

"I knew how it would be. I shall not live to see the end, but you
will. Ha, Beulah! already he has discovered his mistake. I did not
expect it so soon; I fancied Antoinette had more policy. She has
dropped the mask. He sees himself wedded to a woman completely
devoid of truth; he knows her now as she is--as I tried to show him
she was before it was too late; and, Beulah, as I expected, he has
grown reckless--desperate. Ah, if you could have witnessed a scene
at the St. Nicholas, in New York, not long since, you would have
wept over him. He found his bride heartless; saw that she preferred
the society of other gentlemen to his; that she lived only for the
adulation of the crowd; and one evening, on coming home to the
hotel, found she had gone to the opera with a party she knew he
detested. Beulah, it sickens me when I think of his fierce railings,
and anguish, and scorn. He drank in mad defiance, and when she
returned greeted her with imprecations that would have bowed any
other woman, in utter humiliation, into the dust. She laughed
derisively, told him he might amuse himself as he chose, she would
not heed his wishes as regarded her own movements. Luckily, my
parents knew nothing of it; they little suspected, nor do they now
know, why I was taken so alarmingly ill before dawn. I am glad I am
to go so soon. I could not endure to witness his misery and
disgrace."

She closed her eyes and groaned.

"What induced her to marry him?" asked Beulah.

"Only her own false heart knows. But I have always believed she was
chiefly influenced by a desire to escape from the strict discipline
to which her father subjected her at home. Her mother was anything
but a model of propriety; and her mother's sister, who was Dr.
Hartwell's wife, was not more exemplary. My uncle endeavored to curb
Antoinette's dangerous fondness for display and dissipation, and she
fancied that, as Eugene's wife, she could freely plunge into
gayeties which were sparingly allowed her at home. I know she does
not love Eugene; she never did; and, assuredly, his future is dark
enough. I believe, if she could reform him she would not; his
excesses sanction, or at least in some degree palliate, hers. Oh,
Beulah, I see no hope for him!"

"Have you talked to him kindly, Cornelia? Have you faithfully
exerted your influence to check him in his route to ruin?"

"Talked to him? Aye; entreated, remonstrated, upbraided, used every
argument at my command. But I might as well talk to the winds and
hope to hush their fury. I shall not stay to see his end; I shall
soon be silent and beyond all suffering. Death is welcome, very
welcome."

Her breathing was quick and difficult, and two crimson spots burned
on her sallow cheeks. Her whole face told of years of bitterness,
and a grim defiance of death, which sent a shudder through Beulah,
as she listened to the panting breath. Cornelia saturated her
handkerchief with some delicate perfume from a crystal vase, and,
passing it over her face, continued:

"They tell me it is time I should be confirmed; talk vaguely of
seeing preachers, and taking the sacrament, and preparing myself, as
if I could be frightened into religion and the church. My mother
seems just to have waked up to a knowledge of my spiritual
condition, as she calls it. Ah, Beulah, it is all dark before me;
black, black as midnight! I am going down to an eternal night; down
to annihilation. Yes, Beulah; soon I shall descend into what
Schiller's Moor calls the 'nameless yonder.' Before long I shall
have done with mystery; shall be sunk into unbroken rest." A ghastly
smile parted her lips as she spoke.

"Cornelia, do you fear death?"

"No; not exactly. I am glad I am so soon to be rid of my vexed,
joyless life; but you know it is all a dark mystery; and sometimes,
when I recollect how I felt in my childhood, I shrink from the final
dissolution. I have no hopes of a blissful future, such as cheer
some people in their last hour. Of what comes after death I know and
believe nothing. Occasionally I shiver at the thought of
annihilation; but if, after all, revelation is true, I have
something worse than annihilation to fear. You know the history of
my skepticism; it is the history of hundreds in this age. The
inconsistencies of professing Christians disgusted me. Perhaps I was
wrong to reject the doctrines because of their abuse; but it is too
late now for me to consider that. I narrowly watched the conduct of
some of the members of the various churches, and, as I live, Beulah,
I have never seen but one who practiced the precepts of Christ. I
concluded she would have been just what she was without religious
aids. One of my mother's intimate friends was an ostentatious,
pharisaical Christian; gave alms, headed charity lists; was
remarkably punctual in her attendance at church, and apparently very
devout; yet I accidentally found out that she treated a poor
seamstress (whom she hired for a paltry sum) in a manner that
shocked my ideas of consistency, of common humanity. The girl was
miserably poor, and had aged parents and brothers and sisters
dependent on her exertions; but her Christian employer paid her the
lowest possible price, and trampled on her feelings as though she
had been a brute. Oh, the hollowness of the religion I saw
practiced! I sneered at everything connected with churches, and
heard no more sermons, which seemed only to make hypocrites and
pharisees of the congregation. I have never known but one exception.
Mrs. Asbury is a consistent Christian. I have watched her, under
various circumstances; I have tempted her, in divers ways, to test
her, and to-day, skeptic as I am, I admire and revere that noble
woman. If all Christians set an example as pure and bright as hers,
there were less infidelity and atheism in the land. If I had known
even half a dozen such I might have had a faith to cheer me in the
hour of my struggle. She used to talk gently to me in days past, but
I would not heed her. She often comes to see me now; and though I do
not believe the words of comfort that fall from her lips, still they
soothe me; and I love to have her sit near me, that I may look at
her sweet, holy face, so full of winning purity. Beulah, a year ago
we talked of these things. I was then, as now, hopeless of creeds,
of truth, but you were sure you would find the truth. I looked at
you eagerly when you came in, knowing I could read the result in
your countenance. Ah, there is no peace written there! Where is your
truth? Show it to me."

She twined her thin, hot fingers round Beulah's cold hand, and spoke
in a weary tone. The orphan's features twitched an instant, and her
old troubled look came back, as she said:

"I wish I could help you, Cornelia. It must be terrible, indeed, to
stand on the brink of the grave and have no belief in anything. I
would give more than I possess to be able to assist you, but I
cannot; I have no truth to offer you; I have yet discovered nothing
for myself. I am not so sanguine as I was a year ago, but I still
hope that I shall succeed."

"You will not; you will not. It is all mocking mystery, and no more
than the aggregated generations of the past can you find any
solution."

Cornelia shook her head, and leaned back in her chair.

"Philosophy promises one," replied Beulah resolutely.

"Philosophy! Take care! That hidden rock stranded me. Listen to me.
Philosophy, or, what is nowadays its synonym, metaphysical systems,
are worse than useless. They will make you doubt your own individual
existence, if that be possible. I am older than you; I am a sample
of the efficacy of such systems. Oh, the so-called philosophers of
this century and the last are crowned heads of humbuggery! Adepts in
the famous art of"

                              "'Wrapping nonsense round,
     With pomp and darkness, till it seems profound.'"

"They mock earnest,  enquiring minds with their refined,
infinitesimal, homeopathic 'developments' of deity; metaphysical
wolves in Socratic cloaks. Oh, they have much to answer for! 'Spring
of philosophy!' ha! ha! They have made a frog pond of it, in which
to launch their flimsy, painted toy barks. Have done with them,
Beulah, or you will be miserably duped."

"Have you lost faith in Emerson and Theodore Parker?" asked Beulah.

"Yes; lost faith in everything and everybody, except Mrs. Asbury.
Emerson's atheistic fatalism is enough to unhinge human reason; he
is a great and, I believe, an honest thinker, and of his genius I
have the profoundest admiration. An intellectual Titan, he wages a
desperate war with received creeds, and, rising on the ruins of
systems, struggles to scale the battlements of truth. As for Parker,
a careful perusal of his works was enough to disgust me. But no more
of this, Beulah--so long as you have found nothing to rest upon. I
had hoped much from your earnest search; but since it has been
futile, let the subject drop. Give me that glass of medicine. Dr.
Hartwell was here just before you came. He is morose and haggard;
what ails him?"

"I really don't know. I have not seen him for several months--not
since August, I believe."

"So I supposed, as I questioned him about you; and he seemed
ignorant of your movements. Beulah, does not life look dreary and
tedious when you anticipate years of labor and care? Teaching is not
child's sport. Are you not already weary in spirit?"

"No, I am not weary; neither does life seem joyless. I know that I
shall have to labor for a support; but necessity always supplies
strength. I have many, very many sources of happiness, and look
forward, hopefully, to a life of usefulness."

"Do you intend to teach all your days? Are you going to wear out
your life over primers and slates?"

"Perhaps so. I know not how else I shall more easily earn a
subsistence."

"I trust you will marry, and be exempted from that dull, tedious
routine," said Cornelia, watching her countenance.

Beulah made a gesture of impatience.

"That is a mode of exemption so extremely remote that I never
consider it. I do not find teaching so disagreeable as you imagine,
and dare say at fifty (if I live that long) I shall still be in a
schoolroom. Remember the trite line:"

     "'I dreamed, and thought that  life was beauty
       I woke, and found that life was duty'"

"Labor, mental and physical, is the heritage of humanity, and
happiness is inseparably bound up with the discharge of duty. It is
a divine decree that all should work, and a compliance with that
decree insures a proper development of the moral, intellectual, and
physical nature."

"You are brave, Beulah, and have more of hope in your nature than I.
For twenty-three years I have been a petted child; but life has
given me little enjoyment. Often have I asked, Why was I created?
for what am I destined? I have been like a gilded bubble, tossed
about by every breath! Oh, Beulah! often, in the desolation of my
heart, I have recalled that grim passage of Pollok's, and that that
verily I was that

                           "'Atom which God
     Had made superfluously, and needed not
     To build creation with, but back again
     To nothing threw, and left it in the void,
     With everlasting sense, that once it was!'"

"My life has not been useful, it has been but joyless, and clouded
with the shadow of death from my childhood."

Her voice was broken, and tears trickled over her emaciated face.
She put up her thin hand and brushed them away, as if ashamed of her
emotion.

"Sometimes I think if I could only live, and be strong, I would make
myself useful in the world--would try to be less selfish and
exacting, but all regrets are vain, and the indulged child of luxury
must take her place in the pale realms of death along with the
poverty-stricken and laboring. Beulah, I was in pain last night, and
could not sleep, and for hours I seemed to hear the words of that
horrible vision: 'And he saw how world after world shook off its
glimmering souls upon the sea of Death, as a water-bubble scatters
swimming lights on the waves.' Oh! my mind is clouded and my heart
hopeless, it is dismal to stand alone as I do, and confront the
final issue, without belief in anything. Sometimes, when the
paroxysms are severe and prolonged, I grow impatient of the tedious
delay, and would spring, open-armed, to meet Death, the deliverer."

Beulah was deeply moved, and answered, with a faltering voice and
trembling lip:

"I wish I could comfort and cheer you; but I cannot--I cannot! If
the hand of disease placed me to-day on the brink beside you, I
should be as hopeless as you. Oh, Cornelia! it makes my heart ache
to look at you now, and I would give my life to be able to stand
where you do, with a calm trust in the God of Israel; but--"

"Then be warned by my example. In many respects we resemble each
other; our pursuits have been similar. Beulah, do not follow me to
the end! Take my word for it, all is dark and grim."

She sank back, too much exhausted to continue the conversation, and
Beulah rose to go.

"Can't you stay with me?" said the feeble girl.

"No; my companionship is no benefit to you now. If I could help you
I would not leave you at all."

She pressed her lips to the forehead furrowed by suffering, and
hastened away.

It was dusk when she reached home, and, passing the dining room,
where the tea table awaited her arrival, she sought her own
apartment. A cheerful fire blazed in welcome; but just now all
things were somber to her vision, and she threw herself into a chair
and covered her face with her hands. Like a haunting specter,
Cornelia's haggard countenance pursued her, and a dull foreboding
pointed to a coming season when she, too, would quit earth in
hopeless uncertainty. She thought of her guardian and his skeptical
misanthropy. He had explored every by-path of speculation, and after
years of study and investigation had given up in despair, and
settled down into a refined pantheism. Could she hope to succeed
better? Was her intellect so vastly superior to those who for
thousands of years had puzzled by midnight lamps over these
identical questions of origin and destiny? What was the speculation
of all ages, from Thales to Comte, to the dying girl she had just
left? Poor Beulah! For the first time her courage forsook her, and
bitter tears gushed over her white cheeks. There was no stony
bitterness in her face, but an unlifting shadow that mutely revealed
the unnumbered hours of strife and desolation which were slowly
bowing that brave heart to the dust. She shuddered, as now, in self-
communion, she felt that atheism, grim and murderous, stood at the
entrance of her soul, and threw its benumbing shadow into the inmost
recesses. Unbelief hung its murky vapors about her heart, curtaining
it from the sunshine of God's smile. It was not difficult to trace
her gradual progress if so she might term her unsatisfactory
journey. Rejecting literal revelation, she was perplexed to draw the
exact line of demarcation between myths and realities; then followed
doubts as to the necessity, and finally as to the probability and
possibility, of an external, verbal revelation. A revealed code or
system was antagonistic to the doctrines of rationalism; her own
consciousness must furnish the necessary data. But how far was
"individualism" allowable? And here the hydra of speculation reared
its horrid head; if consciousness alone furnished truth, it was but
true for her, true according to the formation of her mind, but not
absolutely true. Admit the supremacy of the individual reason, and
she could not deny "that the individual mind is the generating
principle of all human knowledge; that the soul of man is like the
silkworm, which weaves its universe out of its own being; that the
whole mass of knowledge to which we can ever attain lies potentially
within us from the beginning; that all truth is nothing more than a
self-development."

She became entangled in the finely spun webs of ontology, and knew
not what she believed. Her guardian's words rang in her ears like a
knell. "You must accept either utter skepticism, or absolute,
consistent pantheism."

A volume which she had been reading the night before lay on the
table, and she opened it at the following passage:

"Every being is sufficient to itself; that is, every being is, in
and by itself, infinite: has its God, its highest conceivable being,
in itself. The object of any subject is nothing else than the
subject's own nature taken objectively. Such as are a man's thoughts
and dispositions, such is his God! Consciousness of God is self-
consciousness; by his God, you know the man, and by the man, his
God: the two are identical! Religion is merely the consciousness
which a man has of his own, not limited, but infinite, nature; it is
an early form of self-knowledge. God is the objective nature of the
understanding."

Thus much Feuerbach offered her. She put down the book and leaned
her head wearily on her hands. A light touch on her arm caused her
to glance up, and Mrs. Williams' anxious face looked down at her.

"What is the matter with you, Beulah? Are you sick?"

"No; I am as well as usual." She hastily averted her head.

"But something troubles you, child!"

"Yes; a great many things trouble me; but I am used to troubles, you
know, and can cope with them unaided."

"Won't you tell me what they are, Beulah?"

"You cannot help me, or I would. One cause of sorrow, however, is
the approaching death of a friend whom I shall miss and mourn.
Cornelia Graham cannot live much longer. I saw her this evening, and
found that she has become sadly altered."

"She is young to die," said the matron, with a sigh.

"Yes; only twenty-three."

"Perhaps her death will be the means of reclaiming my poor boy."

Beulah shook her head, and Mrs. Williams added:

"She has lived only for this world and its pleasures. Is she afraid
of the world to come? Can she die peacefully?"

"She will die calmly, but not hopefully. She does not believe in
Christianity."

She felt that the matron was searching her countenance, and was not
surprised when she said falteringly:

"Neither do you believe in it. Oh, Beulah! I have known it since you
came to reside under the same roof with me, and I have wept and
prayed over you almost as much as over Eugene. When Sabbath after
Sabbath passed, and you absented yourself from church, I knew
something was wrong. Beulah, who has taught you infidelity? Oh, it
would have been better that you too had followed Lilly, in the early
days when you were pure in heart! Much as I love you, I would rather
weep over your grave than know you had lived to forget God."

Beulah made no reply; and, passing her hands tenderly over the
girl's head, she continued:

"When you came to me, a little child, I taught you your morning and
evening prayers. Oh, Beulah! Beulah! now you lay down to sleep
without a thought of prayer. My child, what is to become of you?"

"I don't know. But do not be distressed about me; I am trying to do
my duty just as conscientiously as though I went to church."

"Don't deceive yourself, dear child. If you cease to pray and read
your Bible, how are you to know what your duty is? How are you to
keep yourself 'pure and unspotted from the world'? Beulah, a man
without religion is to be pitied; but, oh! a Godless woman is a
horror above all things. It is no marvel you look so anxious and
hollow-eyed. You have forsaken the 'ways of pleasantness and the
paths of peace.'"

"I am responsible to no one for my opinions."

"Yes, you are; responsible to God, for he has given truth to the
world, and when you shut your eyes, and willingly walk in darkness,
he will judge you accordingly. If you had lived in an Indian jungle,
out of hearing of Gospel truth, then God would not have expected
anything but idolatry from you; but you live in a Christian land; in
the land of Bibles, and 'to whom much is given, much will be
expected.' The people of this generation are running after new
doctrines, and overtake much error. Beulah, since I have seen you
sitting up nearly all night, pouring over books that rail at Jesus
and his doctrines, I have repented the hour I first suggested your
educating yourself to teach. If this is what all your learning has
brought you to, it would have been better if you had been put out to
learn millinery or mantua-making. Oh, my child, you have been my
greatest pride, but now you are a grief to me!"

She took Beulah's hand in hers, and pressed her lips to it, while
the tears fell thick and fast. The orphan was not unmoved; her
lashes were heavy with unshed drops, but she said nothing.

"Beulah, I am fifty-five years old; I have seen a great deal of the
world, and, I tell you, I have never yet known a happy man or woman
who did not reverence God and religion. I can see that you are not
happy. Child, you never will be so long as you wander away from God.
I pray for you; but you must also pray for yourself. May God help
you, my dear child!"

She left her, knowing her nature too well to hope to convince her of
her error.

Beulah remained for some time in the same position, with her eyes
fixed on the fire, and her forehead plowed by torturing thought. The
striking of the clock roused her from her reverie, and, drawing a
chair near her desk, she took up her pen to complete an article due
the next day at the magazine office. Ah, how little the readers
dreamed of the heavy heart that put aside its troubles to labor for
their amusement! To-night she did not succeed as well as usual; her
manuscript was blurred, and, forced to copy the greater part of it,
the clock struck three before she laid her weary head on her pillow.



CHAPTER XXX.


Mr. Graham sat by his daughter's bed, with his elbow resting on her
pillow and his head drooped on his hand. It was noon, and sunshine
sparkled out of doors; but here the heavy curtains swept across the
windows and cast a lurid light over the sickroom. His heart ached as
he looked upon the wreck of his once brilliant and beautiful child,
and he shaded his face to conceal the tears which stole down his
furrowed cheeks. The restless sufferer threw up her arms over the
pillow, and, turning toward him, said in a voice sharpened by
disease:

"Has mother gone? I want to say something to you."

"We are alone, my child; speak to me freely."

"There are a few things I wish to have arranged, and my time is
short. You have never refused me any gratification I desired, and I
know you will grant my last request. Father, if I were a bride to-
day, what would be my portion of the estate? How much would you give
me?"

"I would give every cent I possess to purchase you a life of
happiness."

"You do not understand me. I have always been considered an heiress,
and I want to know how much I would be entitled to, if I should
live? Of course Eugene has an equal share. How much is it?"

"About eighty thousand dollars apiece, I suppose, leaving as much
for your mother. Why do you ask, my daughter?"

"Eighty thousand dollars. How much good might be done with it, if
judiciously distributed and invested! Father, I shall not live to
squander it in frivolous amusements or superfluous luxuries. Are you
willing that I should dispose of a portion of it before my death?"

"Yes, Cornelia, if it will afford you any gratification. My poor,
afflicted child; how can I deny you anything you choose to ask?"

She put up one arm around his neck, and, drawing his head close to
her, said earnestly:

"I only wish to use a part of it. Father, I want to leave Beulah
about five thousand dollars. That sum will enable her to live more
comfortably, and labor less, and I should like to feel, before I
die, that I had been the means of assisting her. Will you invest
that amount in stocks for her, or pay the money into her own hands?
Will you see that it is arranged so that she will certainly receive
it, no matter what happens?"

"Yes, I promise you that she shall have five thousand dollars, to
dispose of as she thinks proper."

"She is proud, and will not receive it willingly; but you must
arrange it so that she will be benefited by it. Father, can you do
this for me?"

"Yes, without difficulty, I think."

"Let it be kept secret, will you?"

"Rest assured it shall have no unnecessary publicity."

"See that it is conveyed to her so securely that no quibbles of law
can wrest it from her at any future day, for none of us knows what
may happen."

"I promise you she shall have it if I live twelve hours longer."

"Then I want five thousand more given to the orphan asylum. Give it
in your own name. You only have the right to give. Don't have my
name mentioned in the matter. Will you promise me this also?"

"Yes; it shall all be done. Is there anything else?"

"Thank you, that is all, as regards money matters. Raise my pillow a
little; there, that will do. Father, can't you do something to save
Eugene? You must see now how reckless he is growing."

"Recently I have expostulated with him, and he seemed disposed to
reform his habits. Acknowledged that his associations had been
injurious, and regretted the excesses into which he had been led. He
has been rather wild since he came from college; but I think, now he
is married, he will sober down. That is one reason why I encouraged
his marrying so early. Intemperance is his only fault, and I trust
his good sense will soon lead him to correct it." A smothered sigh
concluded the sentence.

"Father, Antoinette is not the woman to reform him. Don't trust to
her influence; if you do, Eugene will be ruined. Watch over him
closely yourself; try to win him away from the haunts of
dissipation; I tell you now his wife will never do it. She has duped
you and my mother as to her character, but you will find that she is
as utterly heartless as her own mother was. I always opposed the
match, because I probed her mask of dissimulation, and knew Eugene
could not be happy with her. But the mistake is irretrievable, and
it only remains for you to watch him the more carefully. Lift me,
father; I can't breathe easily. There is the doctor on the steps; I am
too tired to talk any more to-day."

One week later, as Beulah was spending her Sabbath evening in her
own apartment, she was summoned to see her friend for the last time.
It was twilight when she reached Mr. Graham's house and glided
noiselessly up the thickly carpeted stairway. The bells were all
muffled, and a solemn stillness reigned over the mansion. She left
her bonnet and shawl in the hall, and softly entered the chamber
unannounced. Unable to breathe in a horizontal position, Cornelia
was bolstered up in her easychair. Her mother sat near her, with her
face hid on her husband's bosom. Dr. Hartwell leaned against the
mantel, and Eugene stood on the hearth opposite him, with his head
bowed down on his hands. Cornelia drew her breath in quick gasps,
and cold drops glistened on her pallid face. Her sunken eyes
wandered over the group, and when Beulah drew near she extended her
hands eagerly, while a shadowy smile passed swiftly over her
sharpened features.

"Beulah, come close to me--close." She grasped her hands tightly,
and Beulah knelt at the side of her chair.

"Beulah, in a little while I shall be at rest. You will rejoice to
see me free from pain, won't you? I have suffered for so many months
and years. But death is about to release me forever. Beulah, is it
forever?--is it forever? Am I going down into an eternal sleep, on a
marble couch, where grass and flowers will wave over me, and the sun
shine down on me? Yes, it must be so. Who has ever waked from this
last dreamless slumber? Abel was the first to fall asleep, and since
then, who has wakened? No one. Earth is full of pale sleepers; and I
am soon to join the silent band."

There was a flickering light in her eyes, like the flame of a candle
low in its socket, and her panting breath was painful to listen to.

"Cornelia, they say Jesus of Nazareth slept, and woke again; if so,
you will--"

"Ha, but you don't believe that, Beulah. They say, they say! Yes.
but I never believed them before, and I don't want to believe them
now. I will not believe it. It is too late to tell me that now.
Beulah, I shall know very soon; the veil of mystery is being lifted.
Oh, Beulah, I am glad I am going; glad I shall soon have no more
sorrow and pain; but it is all dark, dark! You know what I mean.
Don't live as I have, believing nothing. No matter what your creed
may be, hold fast, have firm faith in it. It is because I believe in
nothing that I am so clouded now. Oh, it is such a dark, dark,
lonely way! If I had a friend to go with me I should not shrink
back; but oh, Beulah, I am so solitary! It seems to me I am going
out into a great starless midnight." She shivered, and her cold
fingers clutched Beulah's convulsively.

"Calm yourself, Cornelia. If Christianity is true, God will see that
you were honest in your skepticism, and judge you leniently. If not,
then death is annihilation, and you have nothing to dread; you will
sink into quiet oblivion of all your griefs."

"Annihilation! then I shall see you all no more! Oh, why was I ever
created, to love others, and then be torn away forever, and go back
to senseless dust? I never have been happy; I have always had
aspirations after purer, higher enjoyments than earth could afford
me, and must they be lost in dead clay? Oh, Beulah, can you give me
no comfort but this? Is this the sum of all your study, as well as
mine? Ah, it is vain, useless; man can find out nothing. We are all
blind; groping our way through mysterious paths, and now I am going
into the last--the great mystery!"

She shook her head with a bitter smile, and closed her eyes, as if
to shut out some hideous specter. Dr. Hartwell gave her a spoonful
of some powerful medicine, and stood watching her face, distorted by
the difficulty of breathing. A long silence ensued, broken only by
the sobs of the parents. Cornelia leaned back, with closed eyes, and
now and then her lips moved, but nothing intelligible escaped them.
It was surprising how she seemed to rally sometimes, and breathe
with perfect ease; then the paroxysms would come on more violent
than ever. Beulah knelt on the floor, with her forehead resting on
the arm of the chair, and her hands still grasped in the firm hold
of the dying girl. Time seemed to stand still to watch the issue,
for moments were long as hours to the few friends of the sufferer.
Beulah felt as if her heart were leaden, and a band of burning iron
seemed drawn about her brow. Was this painful parting to be indeed
eternal? Was there no future home for the dead of this world? Should
the bands of love and friendship, thus rudely severed, be renewed no
more? Was there no land where the broken links might be gathered up
again? What did philosophy say of these grim hours of struggle and
separation? Nothing--absolutely nothing! Was she to see her sister
no more? Was a moldering mass of dust all that remained of the
darling dead--the beautiful angel Lilly, whom she had so idolized?
Oh! was life, then, a great mockery, and the soul, with its noble
aims and impulses, but a delicate machine of matter? Her brain was
in a wild, maddening whirl; she could not weep; her eyes were dry
and burning. Cornelia moved an instant, and murmured audibly:

"'For here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come.' Ah!
what is its name? that 'continuing city'! Necropolis?" Again she
remained for some time speechless.

Dr. Hartwell softly wiped away the glistening drops on her brow,
and, opening her eyes, she looked up at him intently. It was an
imploring gaze, which mutely said: "Can't you help me?" He leaned
over, and answered it, sadly enough:

"Courage, Cornelia! It will very soon be over now. The worst is
past, my friend."

"Yes; I know. There is a chill creeping over me. Where is Eugene?"

He came and stood near her; his face full of anguish, which could
not vent itself in tears. Her features became convulsed as she
looked at him; a wailing cry broke from her lips; and, extending her
arms toward him, she said sobbingly:

"Shall I see you no more--no more? Oh, Eugene, my brother, my pride,
my dearest hope! whom I have loved better than my own life, are we
now parted forever--forever!"

He laid her head on his bosom, and endeavored to soothe her; but,
clinging to him, she said huskily:

"Eugene, with my last breath I implore you; forsake your intemperate
companions. Shun them and their haunts. Let me die feeling that at
least my dying prayer will save you! Oh, when I am gone; when I am
silent in the graveyard, remember how the thought of your
intemperance tortured me! Remember how I remonstrated and entreated
you not to ruin yourself! Remember that I loved you above everything
on earth; and that, in my last hour, I prayed you to save yourself!
Oh, Eugene, for my sake! for my sake! quit the wine-cup, and leave
drunkenness for others more degraded!--Promise me!--Where are you?--
Oh, it is all cold and dark!--I can't see you!--Eugene, promise!
promise!--Eugene--"

Her eyes were riveted on his, and her lips moved for some seconds;
then the clasping arms gradually relaxed; the gasps ceased. Eugene
felt a long shudder creep over the limbs, a deep, heavy sigh passed
her lips, and Cornelia Graham's soul was with its God.

Ah! after twenty-three years of hope and fear, struggling and
questioning, what an exit! Eugene lifted the attenuated form and
placed it on the bed; then threw himself into her vacant chair, and
sobbed like a broken-hearted child. Mr. Graham took his wife from
the room; and, after some minutes, Dr. Hartwell touched the kneeling
figure, with the face still pressed against the chair Eugene now
occupied.

"Come, Beulah; she will want you no more."

She lifted a countenance so full of woe that, as he looked at her,
the moisture gathered in his eyes, and he put his hand tenderly on
her head, saying:

"Come with me, Beulah."

"And this is death? Oh, my God, save me from such a death!"

She clasped her hands over her eyes, and shivered; then, rising from
her kneeling posture, threw herself on a couch, and buried her face
in its cushions. That long night of self-communion was never
forgotten.

The day of the funeral was cold, dark, and dismal. A January wind
howled through the streets, and occasional drizzling showers
enhanced the gloom. The parlors and sitting room were draped, and on
the marble slab of one of the tables stood the coffin, covered with
a velvet pall. Once before Beulah had entered a room similarly
shrouded; and it seemed but yesterday that she stood beside Lilly's
rigid form. She went in alone, and waited some moments near the
coffin, striving to calm the wild tumult of conflicting sorrows in
her oppressed heart; then lifted the covering and looked on the
sleeper. Wan, waxen, and silent. No longer the fitful sleep of
disease, nor the refreshing slumber of health, but the still iciness
of ruthless death. The black locks were curled around the forehead,
and the beautiful hands folded peacefully over the heart that should
throb no more with the anguish of earth. Death had smoothed the brow
and put the trembling mouth at rest, and every feature was in
repose. In life she had never looked so placidly beautiful.

"What availed all her inquiries, and longings, and defiant cries?
She died, no nearer the truth than when she began. She died without
hope and without knowledge. Only death could unseal the mystery,"
thought Beulah, as she looked at the marble face and recalled the
bitterness of its lifelong expression. Persons began to assemble;
gradually the rooms filled. Beulah bent down and kissed the cold
lips for the last time, and, lowering her veil, retired to a dim
corner. She was very miserable, but her eyes were tearless, and she
sat, she knew not how long, unconscious of what passed around her.
She heard the stifled sobs of the bereaved parents as in a painful
dream; and when the solemn silence was broken she started, and saw a
venerable man, a stranger, standing at the head of the coffin; and
these words fell upon her ears like a message from another world:

"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; and he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and
whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die!"

Cornelia had not believed; was she utterly lost? Beulah asked
herself this question, and shrank from the answer. She did not
believe; would she die as Cornelia died, without comfort? Was there
but one salvation? When the coffin was borne out, and the procession
formed, she went on mechanically, and found herself seated in a
carriage with Mrs. Asbury and her two daughters. She sank back in
one corner, and the long line of carriages, extending for many
squares, slowly wound through the streets. The wind wailed and
sobbed, as if in sympathy, and the rain drizzled against the window
glass. When the procession reached the cemetery, it was too wet to
think of leaving the carriages, but Beulah could see the coffin
borne from the hearse, and heard the subdued voice of the minister;
and when the shrouded form of the only child was lowered into its
final resting-place, she groaned, and hid her face in her hands.
Should they meet no more? Hitherto Mrs. Asbury had forborne to
address her, but now she passed her arm round the shuddering form,
and said gently:

"My dear Beulah, do not look so hopelessly wretched. In the midst of
life we are in death; but God has given a promise to cheer us all in
sad scenes like this. St. John was told to write, 'From henceforth,
blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from, their
labors.'"

"And do you think she is lost forever because she did not believe?
Do you? Can you?" cried Beulah vehemently.

"Beulah, she had the Bible, which promises eternal life. If she
entirely rejected it, she did so voluntarily and deliberately; but
only God knows the heart--only her Maker can judge her. I trust that
even in the last hour the mists rolled from her mind."

Beulah knew better, but said nothing; it was enough to have
witnessed that darkened soul's last hour on earth. As the carriage
stopped at her door Mrs. Asbury said:

"My dear Beulah, stay with me to-night. I think I can help you to
find what you are seeking so earnestly."

Beulah shrank back, and answered:

"No, no. No one can help me; I must help myself. Some other time I
will come."

The rain fell heavily as she reached her own home, and she went to
her room with a heaviness of heart almost unendurable. She sat down
on the rug before the fire, and threw her arms up over a chair, as
she was wont to do in childhood; and, as she remembered that the
winter rain now beat pitilessly on the grave of one who had never
known privation, nor aught of grief that wealth could shield her
from, she moaned bitterly. What lamp had philosophy hung in the
sable chambers of the tomb? The soul was impotent to explain its
origin--how, then, could it possibly read the riddle of final
destiny? Psychologists had wrangled for ages over the question of
'ideas.' Were infants born with or without them? Did ideas arise or
develop them selves independently of experience? The affirmation or
denial of this proposition alone distinguished the numerous schools,
which had so long wrestled with psychology; and if this were
insolvable, how could human intellect question further? Could it
bridge the gulf of Death, and explore the shores of Eternity?



CHAPTER XXXI.


Time, "like a star, unhasting, yet unresting," moved on. The keen
blasts of winter were gathered back in their Northern storehouses,
and the mild airs of spring floated dreamily beneath genial skies.
The day had been cloudless and balmy, but now the long, level rays
of sunshine, darting from the horizon, told it "was well-nigh done";
and Beulah sat on the steps of her cottage home and watched the
dolphin-like death. The regal splendors of Southern springtime were
on every side; the bright, fresh green of the grassy common, with
its long, velvety slopes, where the sunshine fell slantingly; the
wild luxuriance of the Cherokee rose hedges, with their graceful
streamers gleaming with the snow powder of blossoms; the waving of
newborn foliage; the whir and chirping of birds, as they sought
their leafy shelters; brilliant patches of verbena, like flakes of
rainbow, in the neighboring gardens, and the faint, sweet odor of
violet, jasmine, roses, and honeysuckle burdening the air. Beulah
sat with her hands folded on her lap; an open book lay before her--a
volume of Euskin; but the eyes had wandered away from his gorgeous
descriptions, to another and still more entrancing volume--the
glorious page of nature; and as the swift Southern twilight gathered
she sat looking out, mute and motionless. The distant pinetops sang
their solemn, soothing lullaby, and a new moon sat royally in the
soft violet sky. Around the columns of the little portico a
luxuriant wistaria clambered, and long, purple blossoms, with their
spicy fragrance, drooped almost on Beulah's head, as she leaned it
against the pillar. The face wore a weary, suffering look; the
large, restless eyes were sadder than ever, and there were tokens of
languor in every feature. A few months had strangely changed the
countenance once so hopeful and courageous in its uplifted
expression. The wasted form bore evidence of physical suffering, and
the slender fingers were like those of a marble statue. Yet she had
never missed an hour in the schoolroom, nor omitted one iota of the
usual routine of mental labor. Rigorously the tax was levied, no
matter how the weary limbs ached or how painfully the head throbbed;
and now nature rebelled at the unremitted exaction, and clamored for
a reprieve. Mrs. Williams had been confined to her room for many
days by an attack of rheumatism, and the time devoted to her was
generally reclaimed from sleep. It was no mystery that she looked
ill and spent. Now, as she sat watching the silver crescent
glittering in the vest, her thoughts wandered to Clara Sanders, and
the last letter received from her, telling of a glorious day-star of
hope which had risen in her cloudy sky. Mr. Arlington's brother had
taught her that the dream of her girlhood was but a fleeting fancy,
that she could love again more truly than before, and in the summer
holidays she was to give him her hand and receive his name. Beulah
rejoiced in her friend's happiness; but a dim foreboding arose lest,
as in Pauline's case, thorns should spring up in paths where now
only blossoms were visible. Since that letter, so full of complaint
and sorrow, no tidings had come from Pauline. Many months had
elapsed, and Beulah wondered more and more at the prolonged silence.
She had written several times, but received no answer, and
imagination painted a wretched young wife in that distant parsonage.
Early in spring she learned from Dr. Asbury that Mr. Lockhart had
died at his plantation of consumption, and she conjectured that Mrs.
Lockhart must be with her daughter. Beulah half rose, then leaned
back against the column, sighed involuntarily, and listened to that
"still, small voice of the level twilight behind purple hills." Mrs.
Williams was asleep, but the tea table waited for her, and in her
own room, on her desk, lay an unfinished manuscript which was due
the editor the next morning. She was rigidly punctual in handing in
her contributions, cost her what it might; yet now she shrank from
the task of copying and punctuating and sat a while longer, with the
gentle Southern breeze rippling over her hot brow. She no longer
wrote incognito. By accident she was discovered as the authoress of
several articles commented upon by other journals, and more than
once her humble home had been visited by some of the leading
literati of the place. Her successful career thus far inflamed the
ambition which formed so powerful an element in her mental
organization, and a longing desire for fame took possession of her
soul. Early and late she toiled; one article was scarcely in the
hands of the compositor ere she was engaged upon another. She lived,
as it were, in a perpetual brain fever, and her physical frame
suffered proportionably. The little gate opened and closed with a
creaking sound, and, hearing a step near her, Beulah looked up and
saw her guardian before her. The light from the dining room fell on
his face, and a glance showed her that, although it was pale and
inflexible as ever, something of more than ordinary interest had
induced this visit. He had never entered that gate before; and she
sprang up and held out both hands with an eager cry.

"Oh, sir, I am so glad to see you once more!"

He took her hands in his and looked at her gravely; then made her
sit down again on the step, and said:

"I suppose you would have died before you could get your consent to
send for me? It is well that you have somebody to look after you.
How long have you had this fever?"

"Fever! Why, sir, I have no fever," she replied, with some surprise.

"Oh, child! are you trying to destroy yourself by your obstinacy? If
so, like most other things you undertake, I suppose you will
succeed."

He held her hands and kept his finger on the quick bounding pulse.
Beulah had not seen him since the night of Cornelia's death, some
months before, and conjectured that Dr. Asbury had told him she was
not looking well.

She could not bear the steady, searching gaze of his luminous eyes,
and, moving restlessly, said:

"Sir, what induces you to suppose that I am sick? I have complained
of indisposition to no one."

"Of course you have not, for people are to believe that you are a
gutta-percha automaton."

She fancied his tone was slightly sneering; but his countenance wore
the expression of anxious, protecting interest which she had so
prized in days past, and, as her hands trembled in his clasp and his
firm hold tightened, she felt that it was useless to attempt to
conceal the truth longer.

"I didn't know I was feverish; but for some time I have daily grown
weaker; I tremble when I stand or walk, and am not able to sleep.
That is all."

He smiled down at her earnest face, and asked:

"Is that all, child? Is that all?"

"Yes, sir; all."

"And here you have been, with a continued, wasting nervous fever for
you know not how many days, yet keep on your round of labors without
cessation!"

He dropped her hands and folded his arms across his broad chest,
keeping his eyes upon her.

"I am not at all ill; but believe I need some medicine to strengthen
me."

"Yes, child; you do, indeed, need a medicine, but it is one you will
never take."

"Try me, sir," answered she, smiling.

"Try you? I might as well try to win an eagle from its lonely rocky
home. Beulah, you need rest. Rest for mind, body, and heart. But you
will not take it; oh, no, of course you won't!"

He passed his hand over his brow, and swept back the glossy chestnut
hair, as if it oppressed him.

"I would willingly take it, sir, if I could; but the summer vacation
is still distant, and, besides, my engagements oblige me to exert
myself. It is a necessity with me."

"Rather say sheer obstinacy," said he sternly.

"You are severe, sir," replied Beulah, lifting her head haughtily.

"No; I only call things by their proper names."

"Very well; if you prefer it, then, obstinacy compels me just now to
deny myself the rest you prescribe."

"Yes; rightly spoken; and it will soon compel you to a long rest, in
the quiet place where Cornelia waits for you. You are a mere shadow
now, and a few more months will complete your design. I have blamed
myself more than once that I did not suffer you to die with Lilly,
as you certainly would have done had I not tended you so closely.
Your death then would have saved me much care and sorrow, and you
many struggles."

There was a shadow on his face, and his voice had the deep, musical
tone which always made her heart thrill. Her eyelids drooped, as she
said sadly:

"You are unjust. We meet rarely enough, Heaven knows. Why do you
invariably make these occasions seasons of upbraiding, of taunts and
sneers. Sir, I owe you my life, and more than my life, and never can
I forget or cancel my obligations; but are you no longer my friend?"

His whole face lighted up; the firm mouth trembled.

"No, Beulah. I am no longer your friend."

She looked up at him, and a quiver crept across her lips. She had
never seen that eager expression in his stern face before. His dark,
fascinating eyes were full of pleading tenderness, and, as she
drooped her head on her lap, she knew that Clara was right, that she
was dearer to her guardian than anyone else. A half-smothered groan
escaped her, and there was a short pause.

Dr. Hartwell put his hands gently on her bowed head and lifted the
face.

"Child, does it surprise you?"

She said nothing, and, leaning her head against him, as she had
often done years before, he passed his hand caressingly over the
folds of hair, and added:

"You call me your guardian; make me such. I can no longer be only
your friend; I must either be more, or henceforth a stranger. My
life has been full of sorrow and bitterness, but you can bring
sunlight to my home and heart. You were too proud to be adopted.
Once I asked you to be my child. Ah! I did not know my own heart
then. Our separation during the yellow-fever season first taught me
how inexpressibly dear you were to me, how entirely you filled my
heart. Now I ask you to be my wife, to give yourself to me. Oh,
Beulah, come back to my cheerless home! Best your lonely heart, my
proud darling."

"Impossible. Do not ask it. I cannot! I cannot!" cried Beulah,
shuddering violently.

"Why not, my little Beulah?"

He clasped his arm around her and drew her close to him, while his
head was bent so low that his brown hair touched her cheek.

"Oh, sir, I would rather die! I should be miserable as your wife.
You do not love me, sir; you are lonely, and miss my presence in
your house; but that is not love, and marriage would be a mockery.
You would despise a wife who was such only from gratitude. Do not
ask this of me; we would both be wretched. You pity my loneliness
and poverty, and I reverence you; nay, more, I love you, sir, as my
best friend; I love you as my protector. You are all I have on earth
to look to for sympathy and guidance. You are all I have; but I
cannot marry you; oh, no; no! a thousand times, no!" She shrank away
from the touch of his lips on her brow, and an expression of
hopeless suffering settled upon her face.

He withdrew his arm, and rose.

"Beulah, I have seen sunlit bubbles gliding swiftly on the bosom of
a clear brook and casting golden shadows down upon the pebbly bed.
Such a shadow you are now chasing--ah, child, the shadow of a gilded
bubble! Panting and eager, you clutch at it; the bubble dances on,
the shadow with it; and Beulah, you will never, never grasp it.
Ambition such as yours, which aims at literary fame, is the
deadliest foe to happiness. Man may content himself with the
applause of the world and the homage paid to his intellect; but
woman's heart has holier idols. You cue young, and impulsive, and
aspiring, and Fame beckons you on, like the siren of antiquity; but
the months and years will surely come when, with wasted energies and
embittered heart, you are left to mourn your infatuation. I would
save you from this; but you will drain the very dregs rather than
forsake your tempting fiend, for such is ambition to the female
heart. Yes, you will spend the springtime of your life chasing a
painted specter, and go down to a premature grave, disappointed and
miserable. Poor child, it needs no prophetic vision to predict your
ill-starred career! Already the consuming fever has begun its march.
In far-distant lands, I shall have no tidings of you; but none will
be needed. Perhaps when I travel home to die your feverish dream
will have ended; or, perchance, sinking to eternal rest in some palm
grove of the far East, we shall meet no more. Since the day I took
you in my arms from Lilly's coffin you have been my only hope, my
all. You little knew how precious you were to me, nor what keen
suffering our estrangement cost me. Oh, child, I have loved you as
only a strong, suffering, passionate heart could love its last idol!
But I, too, chased a shadow. Experience should have taught me
wisdom. Now I am a gloomy, joyless man, weary of my home and
henceforth a wanderer. Asbury (if he lives) will be truly your
friend, and to him T shall commit the legacy which hitherto you have
refused to accept. Mr. Graham paid it into my hands after his last
unsatisfactory interview with you. The day may come when you will
need it. I shall send you some medicine which, for your own sake,
you had better take immediately; but you will never grow stronger
until you give yourself rest, relaxation, physically and mentally.
Remember, when your health is broken and all your hopes withered,
remember I warned you and would have saved you, and you would not."
He stooped and took his hat from the floor.

Beulah sat looking at him, stunned, bewildered, her tearless eyes
strained and frightened in their expression. The transient
illumination in his face had faded, like sunset tints, leaving dull,
leaden clouds behind. His compressed lips were firm again, and the
misty eyes became coldly glittering, as one sees stars brighten in a
frosty air.

He put on his hat, and they looked at each other fixedly.

"You are not in earnest? you are not going to quit your home?" cried
Beulah, in a broken, unsteady tone.

"Yes--going into the far East; to the ruined altars of Baalbec; to
Meroe, to Tartary, India, China, and only Fate knows where else.
Perhaps find a cool Nebo in some Himalayan range. Going? Yes. Did
you suppose I meant only to operate on your sympathies? I know you
too well. What is it to you whether I live or die? whether my weary
feet rest in an Indian jungle, or on a sunny slope of the city
cemetery? Yes, I am going very soon, and this is our last meeting. I
shall not again disturb you in your ambitious pursuits. Ah, child--"

"Oh, don't go! don't leave me! I beg, I implore you, not to leave
me. Oh, I am so desolate! don't forsake me! I could not bear to know
you were gone. Oh, don't leave me!" She sprang up, and, throwing her
arms round his neck, clung to him, trembling like a frightened
child. But there was no relaxation of his pale, fixed features, as
he coldly answered:

"Once resolved, I never waver. So surely as I live I shall go. It
might have been otherwise, but you decided it yourself. An hour ago
you held my destiny in your hands; now it is fixed. I should have
gone six years since had I not indulged a lingering hope of
happiness in your love. Child, don't shiver and cling to me so.
Oceans will soon roll between us, and, for a time, you will have no
leisure to regret my absence. Henceforth we are strangers."

"No; that shall never be. You do not mean it; you know it is
impossible. You know that I prize your friendship above every
earthly thing. You know that I look up to you as to no one else.
That I shall be miserable, oh, how miserable, if you leave me! Oh,
sir, I have mourned over your coldness and indifference; don't cast
me off! Don't go to distant lands and leave me to struggle without
aid or counsel in this selfish, unfriendly world! My heart dies
within me at the thought of your being where I shall not be able to
see you. Oh, my guardian, don't forsake me!"

She pressed her face against his shoulder and clasped her arms
firmly round his neck.

"I am not your guardian, Beulah. You refused to make me such. You
are a proud, ambitious woman, solicitous only to secure eminence as
an authoress. I asked your heart; you have now none to give; but
perhaps some day you will love me as devotedly, nay, as madly, as I
have long loved you; for love like mine would wake affection even in
a marble image; but then rolling oceans and trackless deserts will
divide us. And now, good-by. Make yourself a name; bind your aching
brow with the chaplet of fame, and see if ambition can fill your
heart. Good-by, dear child."

Gently he drew her arms from his neck, and took her face in his soft
palms. He looked at her a moment, sadly and earnestly, as if
striving to fix her features in the frame of memory; then bent his
head and pressed a long kiss on her lips. She put out her hands, but
he had gone, and, sinking down on the step, she hid her face in her
arms. A pall seemed suddenly thrown over the future, and the
orphaned heart shrank back from the lonely path where only specters
were visible. Never before had she realized how dear he was to her,
how large a share of her love he possessed, and now the prospect of
a long, perhaps final separation, filled her with a shivering,
horrible dread. We have seen that self-reliance was a powerful
element in her character, and she had learned, from painful
necessity, to depend as little as possible upon the sympathies of
others; but in this hour of anguish a sense of joyless isolation
conquered; her proud soul bowed down beneath the weight of
intolerable grief, and acknowledged itself not wholly independent of
the love and presence of her guardian.

Beulah went back to her desk, and, with tearless eyes, began the
allotted task of writing. The article was due, and must be finished;
was there not a long, dark future in which to mourn? The sketch was
designed to prove that woman's happiness was not necessarily
dependent on marriage. That a single life might be more useful, more
tranquil, more unselfish. Beulah had painted her heroine in glowing
tints, and triumphantly proved her theory correct, while to female
influence she awarded a sphere (exclusive of rostrums and all
political arenas) wide as the universe and high as heaven. Weary
work it all seemed to her now; but she wrote on and on, and finally
the last page was copied and the last punctuation mark affixed. She
wrapped up the manuscript, directed it to the editor, and then the
pen fell from her nerveless fingers and her head went down, with a
wailing cry, on her desk. There the morning sun flashed upon a white
face, tear-stained and full of keen anguish. How her readers would
have marveled at the sight! Ah, "Verily the heart knoweth its own
bitterness."



CHAPTER XXXII.


One afternoon in the following week Mrs. Williams sat wrapped up in
the hall, watching Beulah's movements in the yard at the rear of the
house. The whitewashed paling was covered with luxuriant raspberry
vines, and in one corner of the garden was a bed of strawberry
plants. Over this bed Beulah was bending with a basket nearly filled
with the ripe scarlet berries. Stooping close to the plants she saw
only the fruit she was engaged in picking; and when the basket was
quite full she was suddenly startled by a merry laugh and a pair of
hands clasped over her eyes.

"Who blindfolds me?" said she.

"Guess, you solemn witch!"

"Why, Georgia, of course."

The hands were removed, and Georgia Asbury's merry face greeted her.

"I am glad to see you, Georgia. Where is Helen?"

"Oh, gone to ride with one of her adorers; but I have brought
somebody to see you who is worth the whole Asbury family. No less a
personage than my famous cousin Reginald Lindsay, whom you have
heard us speak of so often. Oh, how tempting those luscious berries
are! Reginald and I intend to stay to tea, and father will perhaps
come out in the carriage for us. Come, yonder is my cousin on the
gallery looking at you, and pretending to talk to Mrs. Williams. He
has read your magazine sketches and is very anxious to see you. How
nice you look; only a little too statuish. Can't you get up a smile?
That is better. Here, let me twine this cluster of wistaria in your
hair; I stole it as I ran up the steps."

Beulah was clad in a pure white mull muslin, and wore a short black
silk apron, confined at the waist by a heavy cord and tassel.
Georgia fastened the purple blossoms in her silky hair, and they
entered the house. Mr. Lindsay met them, and, as his cousin
introduced him, Beulah looked at him, and met the earnest gaze of a
pair of deep blue eyes which seemed to index a nature singularly
tranquil. She greeted him quietly, and would have led the way to the
front of the house; but Georgia threw herself down on the steps, and
exclaimed eagerly:

"Do let us stay here; the air is so deliciously sweet and cool.
Cousin, there is a chair. Beulah, you and I will stem these berries
at once, so that they may be ready for tea."

She took the basket, and soon their fingers were stained with the
rosy juice of the fragrant fruit. All restraint vanished; the
conversation was gay, and spiced now and then with repartees which
elicited Georgia's birdish laugh and banished for a time the weary,
joyless expression of Beulah's countenance. The berries were finally
arranged to suit Georgia's taste, and the party returned to the
little parlor. Here Beulah was soon engaged by Mr. Lindsay in the
discussion of some of the leading literary questions of the day. She
forgot the great sorrow that brooded over her heart, a faint, pearly
glow crept into her cheeks, and the mouth lost its expression of
resolute endurance. She found Mr. Lindsay highly cultivated in his
tastes, polished in his manners, and possessed of rare intellectual
attainments, while the utter absence of egotism and pedantry
impressed her with involuntary admiration. Extensive travel and long
study had familiarized him with almost every branch of science and
department of literature, and the ease and grace with which he
imparted some information she desired respecting the European
schools of art contrasted favorably with the confused account Eugene
had rendered of the same subject. She remarked a singular composure
of countenance, voice, and even position, which seemed
idiosyncratic, and was directly opposed to the stern rigidity and
cynicism of her guardian. She shrank from the calm, steadfast gaze
of his eyes, which looked into hers with a deep yet gentle scrutiny,
and resolved ere the close of the evening to sound him concerning
some of the philosophic phases of the age. Had he escaped the upas
taint of skepticism? An opportunity soon occurred to favor her
wishes, for, chancing to allude to his visit to Rydal Mount, while
in the lake region of England, the transition to a discussion of the
metaphysical tone of the "Excursion" was quite easy.

"You seemed disposed, like Howitt, to accord it the title of 'Bible
of Quakerism,'" said Mr. Lindsay, in answer to a remark of hers
concerning its tendency.

"It is a fertile theme of disputation, sir, and, since critics are
so divided in their verdicts, I may well be pardoned an opinion
which so many passages seem to sanction. If Quakerism is belief in
'immediate inspiration,' which you will scarcely deny, then
throughout the 'Excursion' Wordsworth seems its apostle."

"No; he stands as a high priest in the temple of nature, and calls
mankind from scientific lore to offer their orisons there at his
altar and receive passively the teachings of the material universe.
Tells us,"

    "'Our meddling intellect
      Misshapes the beauteous forms of things,'"

"and promises, in nature, an unerring guide and teacher of truth. In
his lines on revisiting the Wye, he declares himself,"

             '"Well pleased to recognize
     In nature, and the language of the sense,
     The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
     The guide, the guardian of my heart and soul,
     Of all my moral being.'"

"Quakerism rejects all extraneous aids to a knowledge of God; a
silent band of friends sit waiting for the direct inspiration which
alone can impart true light. Wordsworth made the senses, the
appreciation of the beauty and sublimity of the universe, an avenue
of light; while Quakerism, according to the doctrines of Fox and his
early followers, is merely a form of mysticism nearly allied to the
'ecstasy' of Plotinus. The Quaker silences his reason, his every
faculty, and in utter passivity waits for the infusion of divine
light into his mind; the mystic of Alexandria, as far as possible,
divests his intellect of all personality, and becomes absorbed in
the Infinite intelligence from which it emanated."

Beulah knitted her brows, and answered musingly:

"And here, then, extremes meet. To know God we must be God.
Mysticism and Pantheism link hands over the gulf which seemed to
divide them."

"Miss Benton, is this view of the subject a novel one?" said he,
looking at her very intently.

"No; a singular passage in the 'Biographia Literaria' suggested it
to me long ago. But unwelcome hints are rarely accepted, you know."

"Why unwelcome in this case?"

She looked at him, but made no reply, and none was needed. He
understood why, and said quietly yet impressively:

"It sets the seal of necessity upon Revelation. Not the mystical
intuitions of the dreamers, who would fain teach of continued direct
inspiration from God, even at the present time, but the revelation
which began in Genesis and ended with John on Patmos. The very
absurdities of philosophy are the most potent arguments in
substantiating the claims of Christianity. Kant's theory that we can
know nothing beyond ourselves gave the deathblow to philosophy.
Mysticism contends that reason only darkens the mind, and
consequently, discarding all reasoning processes, relies upon
immediate revelation. But the extravagances of Swedenborg, and even
of George Fox, prove the fallacy of the assumption of continued
inspiration, and the only alternative is to rest upon the Christian
Revelation, which has successfully defied all assaults."

There was an instantaneous flash of joy over Beulah's troubled face,
and she said hastily:

"You have escaped the contagion, then? Such exemption is rare
nowadays, for skepticism broods with sable wings over the age"

"It has always brooded where man essayed to lift the veil of Isis;
to elucidate the arcana of the universe, to solve the unsolvable.
Skepticism is the disease of minds which Christian faith alone can
render healthy."

The thrust showed she was not invulnerable; but before she could
reply, Georgia exclaimed:

"In the name of common sense, Reginald, what are you discoursing
about so tiresomely? I suppose I am shamefully stupid, but I don't
understand a word you two have been saying. When father and Beulah
get on such dry, tedious subjects I always set up an opposition at
the piano, which in this instance I am forced to do, from sheer
necessity."

She raised the lid of the piano and rattled off a brilliant
overture; then made Beulah join her in several instrumental duets.
As the latter rose, Mr. Lindsay said, somewhat abruptly:

"I believe you sing. My cousins have been extolling your voice, and
I have some curiosity to hear you. Will you gratify me?"

"Certainly, if you desire it."

She could not refrain from smiling at the perfect nonchalance of his
manner, and, passing her fingers over the keys, sang a beautiful air
from "Lucia." Her guest listened attentively, and, when the song was
ended, approached the piano, and said, with some interest:

"I should prefer a simple ballad, if you will favor me with one."

"Something after the order of 'Lilly Dale,' Beulah. He hears nothing
else in his country home," said Georgia teasingly.

He smiled, but did not contradict her, and Beulah sang that
exquisite ballad, "Why Do Summer Roses Fade?" It was one of her
guardian's favorite airs, and now his image was associated with the
strain. Ere the first verse was finished, a deep, rich, manly voice,
which had sometimes echoed through the study, seemed again to join
hers, and, despite her efforts, her own tones trembled.

Soon after Beulah took her place at the tea table in the center of
the room, and conversation turned on the delights of country life.

"Reginald, how do you manage to amuse yourself in that little town
of yours?" asked Georgia, drawing the bowl of strawberries near and
helping him bountifully.

"I might answer that I had passed the age when amusement was
necessary, but I will not beg your question so completely. In the
first place, I do not reside in town. My office is there, and during
the day, when not absent at court, I am generally in my office; but
evening always finds me at home. Once there, I have endless sources
of amusement; my mother's flowers and birds, my farm affairs, my
music, and my library, to say nothing of hunting and fishing.
Remember, Georgia, that, as a class, lawyers are not addicted to
what you call amusements."

"But after living in Europe, and traveling so much, I should think
that plantation would be horribly dull. Do you never suffer from
ennui, cut off as you are from all society?"

"Ennui is a disease of which I am yet happily ignorant. But for my
mother I should feel the need of society; in a great measure her
presence supplies it. I shall tell you no more, cousin mine, since
you and Helen are to spend a portion of your summer with us, and can
judge for yourselves of the attractions of my country home."

"Are you residing near Mr. Arlington?" said Beulah.

"Quite near; his plantation adjoins mine. Is he a friend of yours?"

"No; but I have a friend living this year in his family. Miss
Sanders is governess for his children. You probably know her."

"Yes; I see her occasionally. Report says she is soon to become the
bride of Richard Arlington."

A slight smile curved his lips as he watched Beulah's countenance.
She offered no comment, and he perceived that the on dit was not new
to her.

"Beulah, I suppose you have heard of Dr. Hartwell's intended journey
to the East? What an oddity he is! Told me he contemplated renting a
bungalow somewhere in heathendom, and turning either Brahmin or
Parsee, he had not quite decided which. He has sold his beautiful
place to the Farleys. The greenhouse plants he gave to mother, and
all the statuary and paintings are to be sent to us until his
return, which cannot be predicted with any certainty. Father frets a
good deal over this freak, as he calls it, and says the doctor had
much better stay at home and physic the sick. I thought it was a
sudden whim; but he says he has contemplated the trip a long time.
He is going immediately, I believe. It must be a trial to you," said
the thoughtless girl.

"Yes; I cannot realize it yet," replied Beulah, struggling with
herself for composure, and hastily setting down her teacup, which
trembled violently. The shadows swept over her once more. Mr.
Lindsay noticed her agitation, and, with delicate consideration,
forbore to look at her. Georgia continued heedlessly:

"I wanted that melodeon that sits in his study; but, though the
remainder of the furniture is to be auctioned off, he says he will
not sell the melodeon, and requested my father to have it carefully
locked up somewhere at home. I asked if I might not use it, and what
do you suppose he said? That I might have his grand piano, if I
would accept it, but that nobody was to touch his melodeon. I told
him he ought to send the piano out to you, in his absence; but he
looked cross, and said you would not use it if he did."

Poor Beulah! her lips quivered, and her fingers clasped each other
tightly, but she said nothing. Just then she heard Dr. Asbury's
quick step in the hall, and, to her infinite relief, he entered,
accompanied by Helen. She saw that, though his manner was kind and
bantering as usual, there was an anxious look on his benevolent
face, and his heavy brows occasionally knitted. When he went into
the adjoining room to see Mrs. Williams, she understood his glance,
and followed him. He paused in the hall, and said eagerly:

"Has Hartwell been here lately?"

"Yes; he was here last week."

"Did he tell you of his whim about traveling East?"

"Yes; he told me."

"Beulah, take care what you are about! You are working mischief not
easily rectified. Child, keep Guy at home!"

"He is master of his own movements, and you know his stubborn will.
I would keep him here if I could; but I have no influence."

"All fiddlesticks! I know better! I am neither a bat nor a mole.
Beulah, I warn you; I beg you, child, mind how you act. Once
entirely estranged, all the steam of Christendom could not force him
back. Don't let him go; if you do, the game is up, I tell you now.
You will repent your own work, if you do not take care. I told him
he was a fool to leave such a position as his and go to dodging
robbers in Eastern deserts; whereupon he looked as bland and
impenetrable as if I had compared him to Solomon. There, go back to
your company, end mind what I say; don't let Guy go."

He left her; and, though she exerted herself to entertain her
guests, Mr. Lindsay saw that her mind was troubled and her heart
oppressed. He endeavored to divert her thoughts, by introducing
various topics; and she talked and smiled, and even played and sang,
yet the unlifting cloud lay on her brow. The evening seemed
strangely long, and she accompanied her visitors to the door with a
sensation of relief. At parting Mr. Lindsay took her hand, and said
in a low voice:

"May I come whenever I am in your city?"

"Certainly; I shall be pleased to see you when you have leisure,"
she replied hurriedly.

"I shall avail myself of your permission, I assure you."

She had often heard Dr. Asbury speak with fond pride of this nephew;
and, as Eugene had also frequently mentioned him in his early
letters from Heidelberg, she felt that he was scarcely a stranger,
in the ordinary acceptation of the term. To her, his parting words
seemed merely polite, commonplace forms; and, with no thought of a
future acquaintance, she dismissed him from her mind, which was too
painfully preoccupied to dwell upon the circumstances of his visit.

A few days passed, and one Saturday morning she sat in the dining
room, finishing a large drawing upon which she had for months
expended all her leisure moments. It was designed from a description
in "Queen Mab," and she took up her crayon to give the final touch,
when heavy steps in the hall arrested her attention, and, glancing
toward the door, she saw Hal, Dr. Hartwell's driver, with a wooden
box on his shoulder and Charon by his side. The latter barked with
delight, and sprang to meet the girl, who had hastily risen.

"How do you do, Miss Beulah? It is many a day since I have seen you,
and you look worse of wear too. Haven't been sick, have you?" said
Hal, sliding the box down on the floor.

"Not exactly sick, but not so well as usual," she answered, passing
her trembling hands over the dog's head.

"Well, I don't see, for my part, what is to become of us all, now
master's gone--"

"Gone!" echoed Beulah.

"Why, to be sure. He started to the plantation yesterday, to set
things all in order there, and then he is going straight on to New
York. The house looks desolate enough, and I feel like I was about
to dig my own grave. Just before he left he called me into the
study, and told me that, as soon as he had gone, I was to bring
Charon over to you and ask you to keep him and take care of him. He
tried to unlock the collar on his neck, but somehow the key would
not turn. Master looked dreadful sad when he patted poor Char's head
and let the brute put his paws on his shoulders for the last time.
Just as the boat pushed off he called to me to be sure to bring him
to you; so here he is; and, Miss Beulah, the poor fellow seems to
know something is wrong; he whined all night, and ran over the empty
house this morning, growling and snuffing. You are to keep him till
master comes home; the Lord only knows when that will be. I tried to
find out; but he looked for the world like one of them stone faces
in the study, and gave me no satisfaction. Miss Beulah, Dr. Asbury
was at the house just as I started, and he sent over this box to
you. Told me to tell you that he had all the pictures moved to his
house, but had not room to hang all, so he sent one over for you to
take care of. Shall I take it out of the case?"

"Never mind, Hal; I can do that. Did your master leave no other
message for me? was there no note?" She leaned heavily on a chair to
support herself.

"None that I know of, except that you must be kind to Charon. I have
no time to spare; Dr. Asbury needs me; so good-by, Miss Beulah. I
will stop some day when I am passing, and see how the dog comes on.
I know he will be satisfied with you."

The faithful servant touched his hat and withdrew. The storm of
grief could no longer be repressed, and, sinking down on the floor,
Beulah clasped her arms round Charon's neck and hid her face in his
soft, curling hair, while her whole frame shook with convulsive
sobs. She had not believed her guardian would leave without coming
again, and had confidently expected him, and now he had gone.
Perhaps forever; at best, for many years. She might never see him
again, and this thought was more than she could endure. The proud
restraint she was wont to impose upon her feelings all vanished, and
in her despairing sorrow she wept and moaned as she had never done
before, even when Lilly was taken from her. Charon crouched close to
her, with a mute grief clearly written in his sober, sagacious
countenance, and each clung to the other, as to a last stay and
solace. He was a powerful animal, with huge limbs, and a think,
shaggy covering, sable as midnight, without a speck of white about
him. Around his neck was a silver chain, supporting a broad piece of
plate, on which was engraved, in German letters, the single word,
"Hartwell." How long she sat there Beulah knew not; but a growl
roused her, and she saw Mrs. Williams looking sorrowfully at her.

"My child, what makes you moan and weep so bitterly."

"Oh, because I am so miserable; because I have lost my best friend;
my only friend; my guardian. He has gone--gone! and I did not see
him." With a stifled cry her face went down again.

The matron had never seen her so unnerved before, and wondered at
the vehemence of her grief, but knew her nature too well to attempt
consolation. Beulah lifted the box and retired to her own room,
followed by Charon. Securing the door, she put the case on the table
and looked at it wistfully. Were her conjectures, her hopes,
correct? She raised the lid and unwrapped the frame, and there was
the noble head of her guardian. She hung the portrait on a hook just
above her desk, and then stood, with streaming eyes, looking up at
it. It had been painted a few weeks after his marriage, and
represented him in the full morning of manhood, ere his heart was
embittered and his clear brow overshadowed. The artist had suffered
a ray of sunshine to fall on the brown hair that rippled round his
white temples with careless grace. There was no mustache to shade
the sculptured lips, and they seemed about to part in one of those
rare, fascinating smiles which Beulah had often watched for in vain.
The matchless eyes looked down at her, with brooding tenderness in
their hazel depths, and now seemed to question her uncontrollable
grief. Yet she had pained him; had in part caused his exile from the
home of his youth, and added another sorrow to those which now
veiled that peerless face in gloom. He had placed his happiness in
her hands; had asked her to be his wife. She looked at the portrait,
and shuddered and moaned. She loved him above all others; loved him
as a child adores its father; but how could she, who had so
reverenced him, consent to become his wife? Besides, she could not
believe he loved her. He liked her; pitied her isolation and
orphanage; felt the need of her society, and wanted her always in
his home. But she could not realize that he, who so worshiped
beauty, could possibly love her. It was all like a hideous dream
which morning would dispel; but there was the reality, and there was
Charon looking steadily up at the portrait he was at no loss to
recognize.

"Oh, if I could have seen him once more! If he had parted with me in
kindness, it would not be so intolerable. But to remember his stern,
sad face, as last I saw it; oh, how can I bear it I To have it
haunting me through life, like a horrible specter; no friendly words
to cherish; no final message; all gloom and anger. Oh, how shall I
bear it!" And she fell on Charon's neck and wept bitterly.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


In the early days of summer Mr. and Mrs. Graham left the city for
one of the fashionable watering-places on the Gulf, accompanied by
Antoinette. Eugene remained, on some pretext of business, but
promised to follow in a short time. The week subsequent to their
departure saw a party of gentlemen assembled to dine at his house.
The long afternoon wore away; still they sat round the table. The
cloth had been removed, and only wine and cigars remained; bottle
after bottle was emptied, and finally decanters were in requisition.
The servants shrugged their shoulders, and looked on with amused
expectancy. The conversation grew loud and boisterous, now and then
flavored with oaths; twilight came on--the shutters were closed--the
magnificent chandelier lighted. Eugene seized a crystal ice bowl,
and was about to extract a lump of ice when it fell from his fingers
and shivered to atoms. A roar of laughter succeeded the exploit,
and, uncorking a fresh bottle of champagne, he demanded a song.
Already a few of the guests were leaning on the table stupefied, but
several began the strain. It was a genuine Bacchanalian ode, and the
deafening shout rose to the frescoed ceiling as the revelers leaned
forward and touched their glasses. Touched, did I say; it were
better written clashed. There was a ringing chorus as crystal met
crystal; glittering fragments flew in every direction; down ran the
foaming wine, thick with splintered glass, on the rosewood table.
But the strain was kept up; fresh glasses were supplied; fresh
bottles drained; the waiters looked on, wondered where all this
would end, and pointed to the ruin of the costly service. The
brilliant gaslight shone on a scene of recklessness pitiable indeed.
All were young men, and, except Eugene, all unmarried; but they
seemed familiar with such occasions. One or two, thoroughly
intoxicated, lay with their heads on the table, unconscious of what
passed; others struggled to sit upright, yet the shout was still
raised from time to time.

"Fill up, and let us have that glorious song from Lucrezia Borgia.
Hey, Proctor!" cried Eugene.

"That is poor fun without Vincent. He sings it equal to Vestvali.
Fill up there, Munroe, and shake up Cowdon. Come, begin, and--"

He raised his glass with a disgusting oath, and was about to
commence, when Munroe said stammeringly:

"Where is Fred, anyhow? He is a devilish fine fellow for a frolic.
I--"

"Why, gone to the coast with Graham's pretty wife. He is all
devotion. They waltz and ride, and, in fine, he is her admirer par
excellence. Stop your stupid stammering, and begin."

Eugene half rose at this insulting mention of his wife's name, but
the song was now ringing around him, and, sinking back, he, too,
raised his unsteady voice. Again and again the words were madly
shouted; and then, dashing his empty glass against the marble
mantel, Proctor swore he would not drink another drop. What a
picture of degradation! Disordered hair, soiled clothes, flushed,
burning cheeks, glaring eyes, and nerveless hands. Eugene attempted
to rise, but fell back in his chair, tearing off his cravat, which
seemed to suffocate him. Proctor, who was too thoroughly inured to
such excesses to feel it as sensibly as the remainder of the party,
laughed brutally, and, kicking over a chair which stood in his way,
grasped his host by the arm, and exclaimed:

"Come out of this confounded room; it is as hot as a furnace; and
let us have a ride to cool us. Come. Munroe and Cowdon must look
after the others. By Jove, Graham, old father Bacchus himself could
not find fault with your cellar. Come."

Each took a cigar from the stand and descended to the front door,
where a light buggy was waiting the conclusion of the revel. It was
a cloudless July night, and the full moon poured a flood of silver
light over the silent earth. Proctor assisted Eugene into the buggy,
and, gathering up the reins, seized the whip, gave a flourish and
shout, and off sprang the spirited horse, which the groom could with
difficulty hold until the riders were seated.

"Now, Graham, I will bet a couple of baskets of Heidseick that my
royal Telegraph will make the first mile post in 2.30. What say
you?"

"Done; 2.40 is the lowest."

"Phew! Telegraph, my jewel, show what manner of flesh you are made
of. Now, then, out with your watch."

He shook the reins and the horse rushed forward like an arrow.
Before the mile post was reached it became evident that Telegraph
had taken the game entirely out of his master's hands. In vain the
reins were tightened. Proctor leaned so far back that his hat fell
off. Still the frantic horse sped on. The mile post flashed by, but
Eugene could barely sit erect, much less note the time. At this
stage of the proceedings, the whir of wheels behind gave a new
impetus to Telegraph's flying feet. They were near a point in the
road where an alley led off at right angles, and thinking,
doubtless, that it was time to retrace his steps, the horse dashed
down the alley, heedless of Proctor's efforts to restrain him, and,
turning into a neighboring street, rushed back toward the city.
Bareheaded, and with heavy drops of perspiration streaming from his
face, Proctor cursed, and jerked, and drew the useless reins. On
went Telegraph, making good his title, now swerving to this side of
the road and now to that; but as he approached a mass of bricks
which were piled on one side of the street, near the foundations of
a new building, the moonlight flashed upon a piece of tin in the
sand on the opposite side, and, frightened by the glitter, he
plunged toward the bricks. The wheels struck, the buggy tilted, then
came down again with a terrible jolt, and Eugene was thrown out on
the pile. Proctor was jerked over the dashboard, dragged some
distance, and finally left in the sand, while Telegraph ran on to
the stable.

It was eleven o'clock, but Beulah was writing in her own room; and
through the open window heard the thundering tramp, the rattle among
the bricks, Proctor's furious curses, and surmised that some
accident had happened. She sprang to the window, saw the buggy just
as it was wheeled on, and hoped nothing was hurt. But Charon, who
slept on the portico, leaped over the paling, ran around the bricks,
and barked alarmingly. She unlocked the door, saw that no one was
passing, and, opening the little gate, looked out. Charon stood
watching a prostrate form, and she fearlessly crossed the street and
bent over the body. One arm was crushed beneath him; the other
thrown up over the face. She recognized the watch chain, which was
of a curious pattern; and, for an instant, all objects swam before
her. She felt faint; her heart seemed to grow icy and numb; but,
with a great effort, she moved the arm, and looked on the face
gleaming in the moonlight. Trembling like a weed in a wintry blast,
she knelt beside him. He was insensible, but not dead; though it was
evident there must have been some severe contusion about the head.
She saw that no time should be lost, and, running into one of the
neighboring houses, knocked violently. The noise of the horse and
buggy had already aroused the inmates, and very soon the motionless
form was borne into Beulah's little cottage and placed on a couch,
while a messenger was dispatched for Dr. Asbury. Eugene remained
just as they placed him; and, kneeling beside him, Beulah held his
cold hands in hers, and watched, in almost breathless anxiety, for
some return of animation. She knew that he was intoxicated; that
this, and this only, caused the accident; and tears of shame and
commiseration trickled down her cheeks. Since their parting
interview, previous to his marriage, they had met but once, and then
in silence, beside Cornelia in her dying hour. It was little more
than a year since she had risked his displeasure, and remonstrated
with him on his ruinous course; and that comparatively short period
had wrought painful changes in his once noble, handsome face. She
had hoped that Cornelia's dying prayer would save him; but now,
alas, it was too apparent that the appeal had been futile. She knew
not that his wife was absent, and determined to send for her as soon
as possible. The long hour of waiting seemed an eternity; but at
last Dr. Asbury came, and carefully examined the bruised limbs.
Beulah grasped his arm.

"Oh! will he die?"

"I don't know, child; this arm is badly fractured, and I am afraid
there is a severe injury on the back of the head. It won't do to
move him home, so send Hal in from my buggy to help put him in bed.
Have me some bandages at once, Beulah."

As they carried him into Mrs. Williams' room and prepared to set the
fractured arm, he groaned, and for a moment struggled, then relapsed
into a heavy stupor. Dr. Asbury carefully straightened and bandaged
the limb, and washed the blood from his temples, where a gash had
been inflicted in the fall.

"Will you go to his wife at once, sir, and inform her of his
condition?" said Beulah, who stood by the blood-stained pillow, pale
and anxious.

"Don't you know his wife is not here? She has gone for the summer.
Wife! did I say? She does not deserve the sacred name! If he had had
a wife he would never have come to this ruin and disgrace. It is
nothing more than I expected when he married her. I could easily put
her soul on the end of a lancet, and as for heart--she has none at
all! She is a pretty flirt, fonder of admiration than of her
husband. I will write by the earliest mail, informing Graham of the
accident and its possible consequences, and perhaps respect for the
opinion of the world may bring her home to him. Beulah, it is a
difficult matter to believe that that drunken, stupid victim there
is Eugene Graham, who promised to become an honor to his friends and
his name. Satan must have established the first distillery; the
institution smacks of the infernal! Child, keep ice upon that head,
will you, and see that as soon as possible he takes a spoonful of
the medicine I mixed just now. I am afraid it will be many days
before he leaves this house. If he lives, the only consolation is
that it may be a lesson and warning to him. I will be back in an
hour or so. As for Proctor, whom I met limping home, it would have
been a blessing to the other young men of the city, and to society
generally, if he had never crawled out of the sand where he was
thrown."

A little while after the silence was broken by a heavy sob, and,
glancing up, Beulah perceived the matron standing near the bed,
gazing at the sleeper.

"Oh, that he should come to this! I would ten thousand times rather
he had died in his unstained boyhood."

"If he lives, this accident may be his salvation."

"God grant it may--God grant it may!"

Falling on her knees, the aged woman put up a prayer of passionate
entreaty, that Almighty God would spare his life and save him from a
drunkard's fate.

"If I, too, could pray for him, it might ease my aching heart,"
thought Beulah, as she listened to the imploring words of the
matron.

And why not? Ah! the murky vapors of unbelief shrouded the All-
Father from her wandering soul. Dawn looked in upon two sorrowing
watchers beside that stupid slumberer, and showed that the
physician's fears were realized; a raging fever had set in, and this
night was but the commencement of long and weary vigils. About noon
Beulah was crossing the hall with a bowl of ice in her hand, when
someone at the door pronounced her name, and Proctor approached her,
accompanied by Cowdon. She had once met the former at Mr. Graham's,
and, having heard Cornelia regret the miserable influence he exerted
over her brother, was prepared to receive him coldly.

"We have come to see Graham, madam," said he, shrinking from her
sad, searching eyes, yet assuming an air of haughty indifference.

"You cannot see him, sir."

"But I tell you I must! I shall remove him to his own house, where
he can be properly attended to. Where is he?"

"The physician particularly urged the necessity of keeping
everything quiet. He shall not be disturbed; but, as he is
unconscious, perhaps it will afford you some gratification to behold
the ruin you have wrought. Gentlemen, here is your victim."

She opened the door and suffered them to stand on the threshold and
look at the prostrate form, with the head enveloped in icy cloths
and the face bloated and purplish from bruises and fever. Neither
Proctor nor his companion could endure the smile of withering
contempt which curled her lips as she pointed to the victim of their
temptations and influence, and, with a half-suppressed imprecation,
Proctor turned on his heel and left the house. Apparently this brief
visit quite satisfied them, for it was not repeated. Days and nights
of unremitted watching ensued; Eugene was wildly delirious, now
singing snatches of drinking songs, and waving his hand, as if to
his guests; and now bitterly upbraiding his wife for her
heartlessness and folly. The confinement of his fractured arm
frenzied him; often he struggled violently to free himself, fancying
that he was incarcerated in some horrid dungeon. On the morning of
the fourth day after the accident a carriage stopped at the cottage
gate, and, springing out, Mr. Graham hurried into the house. As he
entered the sickroom and caught sight of the tossing sufferer, a
groan escaped him, and he covered his eyes an instant, as if to shut
out the vision. Eugene imagined he saw one of the Heidelberg
professors, and, laughing immoderately, began a rapid conversation
in German. Mr. Graham could not conceal his emotion, and, fearing
its effect on the excitable patient, Beulah beckoned him aside and
warned him of the possible consequences. He grasped her hand, and
asked the particulars of the occurrence, which had been mentioned to
him vaguely. She told him the account given by Eugene's servants of
the night's revel, and then the denouement in front of her door. In
conclusion she said earnestly:

"Where is his wife? Why is she not here?"

"She seemed to think she could render no assistance; and, fearing
that all would be over before we could get here, preferred my coming
at once and writing to her of his condition. Ah! she is miserably
fitted for such scenes as you must have witnessed." And the gray-
haired man sighed heavily.

"What! can she bear to commit her husband to other hands at such a
crisis as this? How can she live away from his side when every hour
may be his last? Oh, is she indeed so utterly, utterly heartless,
selfish, callous? Poor Eugene! Better find release from such a union
in death than go through life bound to a wife so unblushingly
indifferent!"

Her face was one flash of scorn and indignation, and, extending her
hand toward the restless invalid, she continued in a lower tone:

"She has deserted her sacred post; but a truer, better friend, one
who has always loved him as a brother, will supply her place. All
that a sister's care can do, assuredly he shall have."

"You are very kind, Miss Beulah; my family are under lasting
obligations to you for your generous attentions to that poor boy of
ours, and I--"

"No. You understand little of the nature of our friendship. We were
orphan children, warmly attached to each other, before you took him
to a home of wealth and lavish indulgence. Were he my own brother, I
could not feel more deeply interested in his welfare, and while he
requires care and nursing I consider it my privilege to watch over
and guard him. There is Dr. Asbury in the hall; he can tell you
better than I of his probable recovery,"

Ah, reader, is

        "Friendship but a name?
     A charm that lulls to Bleep,
     A shade that follows wealth or fame,
     And leaves the wretch to weep?"

Mr. Graham remained at the cottage, and, having written to
Antoinette of the imminent danger in which he found her husband,
urged her to lose no time in joining him. Unluckily, he was ignorant
of all the information which is so essential in the occupation of
nursing. He was anxious to do everything in his power; but, like the
majority of persons on such occasions, failed wretchedly in his
attempts. Almost as restless and nervous as the sick man, he only
increased the difficulties he would fain have remedied, and Beulah
finally prevailed upon him to abandon his efforts and leave the
room, where his constant movements annoyed and irritated the
sufferer. Eugene recognized no one, but his eyes followed Beulah
continually; and when his delirium was at its height only her voice
and clasp of his hand could in any degree soothe him. In his ravings
she noticed two constantly conflicting emotions: a stern bitterness
of feeling toward his wife and an almost adoring fondness for his
infant child. Of the latter he talked incessantly, and vowed that
she, at least, should love him. As the weary days crept by Beulah
started at every sound, fancying that the wife had certainly come;
but hour after hour found only Mrs. Williams and the orphan guarding
the deserted husband. Gradually the fever abated, and a death-like
stupor succeeded. Mr. Graham stole about the house like a haunting
spirit, miserable and useless, and in the solemn stillness of
midnight only Beulah sat by the pillow, where a head now rested
motionless as that of a corpse. Mrs. Williams was asleep on a couch
at the opposite end of the room, and, in the dim, spectral light of
the shaded lamp, the watcher and her charge looked unearthly. Faint
from constant vigils, Beulah threw her arm on the bed and leaned her
head upon it, keeping her eyes on the colorless face before her. Who
that has watched over friends, hovering upon the borders of the
spiritland, needs to be told how dreary was the heart of the
solitary nurse? And to those who have not thus suffered and endured,
no description would adequately portray the desolation and gloom.

The stars were waning, when Eugene moved, threw up his hand over the
pillow, and, after a moment, opened his eyes. Beulah leaned forward,
and he looked at her fixedly, as if puzzled; then said feebly:

"Beulah, is it you?"

A cry of joy rolled to her lips; but she hushed it, and answered
tremblingly:

"Yes, Eugene; it is Beulah."

His eyes wandered about the room, and then rested again on her
countenance, with a confused, perplexed expression.

"Am I at home? What is the matter?"

"Yes, Eugene; at home among your best friends. Don't talk any more;
try to sleep again." With a great joy in her heart she extinguished
the light, so that he could see nothing. After a few moments he said
slowly:

"Beulah, did I dream I saw you? Beulah!" She felt his hand put out,
as if to feel for her.

"No; I am sitting by you, but will not talk to you now. You must
keep quiet."

There was a short silence.

"But where am I? Not at home, I know."

She did not reply, and he repeated the question more earnestly.

"You are in my house, Eugene; let that satisfy you."

His fingers closed over hers tightly, and soon he slept.

The sun was high in the sky when he again unclosed his eyes and
found Dr. Asbury feeling his pulse. His mind was still bewildered,
and he looked around him wonderingly.

"How do you feel, Graham?" said the doctor.

"Feel! as if I had been standing on my head. What is the matter with
me, doctor? Have I been sick?"

"Well--yes; you have not been exactly well, and feel stupid after a
long nap. Take a spoonful of this nectar I have prepared for you. No
wry faces, man! It will clear your head."

Eugene attempted to raise himself, but fell back exhausted, while,
for the first time, he noticed his arm firmly incased in wood and
bandages.

"What have you been doing to my arm? Why, I can't move it. I should-
-"

"Oh, don't trouble yourself, Graham; you injured it, and I bound it
up, that is all. When gentlemen amuse themselves with such gymnastic
feats as you performed, they must expect a little temporary
inconvenience from crushed bones and overstrained muscles. Beulah,
mind my directions about silence and quiet."

The doctor walked out to escape further questioning. Eugene looked
at his useless, stiffened arm and then at Beulah, saying anxiously:

"What is the matter with me?"

"You were thrown out of a buggy and fractured your arm in the fall."

She thought it best to tell the truth at once.

Memory flew back to her deserted throne, and dimly the events of
that evening's revel passed through his mind. A flush of shame rose
to his temples, and, turning his head toward the wall, he hid his
face in the pillow. Then Beulah heard a deep, shuddering sigh and a
groan of remorseful agony. After a long silence, he said, in a tone
of humiliation that drew tears to her eyes:

"How long have I been here?"

She told him the number of days, and he immediately asked,

"Have I been in any danger?"

"Yes; very great danger; out that has all passed now, and if you
will only be composed and careful you will soon be strong again."

"I heard my father talking to you. Who else is here?"

He looked at her with eager interest.

"No one else, except our kind matron. Mr. Graham came as soon as the
letter reached him, and has not left the house since."

A look of indescribable sorrow and shame swept over his countenance
as he continued bitterly:

"And did Antoinette know all at once? Stop, Beulah; tell me the
miserable truth. Did she know all and still remain away?"

"She knew all that had been communicated to Mr. Graham when he came;
and he has written to her every day. He is now writing to inform her
that you are better."

She shrank from giving the pain she was conscious her words
inflicted.

"I deserve it all! Yes, ingratitude, indifference, and desertion! If
I had died she would have heard it unmoved. Oh, Cornelia, Cornelia,
it is a fearful retribution; more bitter than death!" Averting his
face, his whole frame trembled with ill-concealed emotion.

"Eugene, you must compose yourself. Remember you jeopardize your
life by this sort of excitement."

"Why didn't you let me die? What have I to live for? A name
disgraced and a wife unloving and heartless! What has the future but
wretchedness and shame?"

"Not unless you will it so. You should want to live to retrieve your
character, to take an honorable position, which, hitherto, you have
recklessly forfeited; to make the world respect you, your wife
revere you, and your child feel that she may be proud of her father!
Ah, Eugene, all this the future calls you to do."

He looked up at her as she stood beside him, pale, thin, and weary,
and his feeble voice faltered, as he asked:

"Beulah, my best friend, my sister, do you quite despise me?"

She laid her hands softly on his, and, stooping down, pressed her
lips to his forehead.

"Eugene, once I feared that you had fallen even below my pity; but
now I believe you will redeem yourself. I hope that, thoroughly
reformed, you will command the respect of all who know you and
realize the proud aspirations I once indulged for you. That you can
do this I feel assured; that you will, I do most sincerely trust. I
have not yet lost faith in you, Eugene. I hope still."

She left him to ponder in solitude the humiliating result of his
course of dissipation.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


The hours of gradual convalescence were very trying to Beulah, now
that the sense of danger no longer nerved her to almost superhuman
endurance and exertion. Mr. Graham waited until his adopted son was
able to sit up, and then returned to the watering-place where his
wife remained. Thus the entire charge of the invalid devolved on the
tireless friends who had watched over him in the hour of peril.
Beulah had endeavored to banish the sorrow that pressed so heavily
on her heart, and to dispel the gloom and despondency which seemed
to have taken possession of the deserted husband. She read, talked,
sang to him, and constantly strove to cheer him by painting a future
in which the past was to be effectually canceled. Though well-nigh
exhausted by incessant care and loss of sleep, she never complained
of weariness, and always forced a smile of welcome to her lips when
the' invalid had his chair wheeled to her side, or tottered out into
the dining room to join her. One morning in August she sat on the
little gallery at the rear of the house, with a table before her,
engaged in drawing some of the clusters of blue, white, and pink
convolvulus which festooned the pillars and balustrade. Eugene sat
near her, with his thin face leaning on his hand, his thoughts
evidently far removed from flowers. His arm was still in a sling,
and he looked emaciated and dejected. Mrs. Williams had been talking
to him cheerfully about some money matters he had promised to
arrange for her so soon as he was well enough to go to his office;
but, gathering up her working materials, the old lady went into the
kitchen, and the two sat for some time in silence. One of his long-
drawn sighs arrested Beulah's attention, and she said kindly:

"What is the matter, brother mine? Are you tired of watching my
clumsy fingers? Shall I finish that essay of Macaulay's you were so
much interested in yesterday, or will you have another of Bryant's
poems?" She laid down her pencil, quite ready to divert his mind by
reading.

"No; do not quit your drawing; I should not enjoy even Macaulay to-
day."

He threw his head back, and sighed again.

"Why, Eugene? Don't you feel as well as usual this morning? Remember
your family will arrive to-day; you should be the happiest man
living."

"Oh, Beulah! don't mock me. I cannot bear it. My life seems a
hopeless blank."

"You ought not to talk so despondingly; you have everything to live
for. House your energies. Be indeed a man. Conquer this weak,
repining spirit. Don't you remember the motto on the tombstone at
St. Gilgen?

  "'Look not mournfully on the past--it comes not back;
    Enjoy the present--it is thine.
    Go forth to meet the shadowy future
    With a manly heart, and without fear.'"

"You know little of what oppresses me. It is the knowledge of my--of
Antoinette's indifference which makes the future so joyless, so
desolate. Beulah, this has caused my ruin. When I stood by
Cornelia's coffin, and recalled her last frantic appeal; when I
looked down at her cold face, and remembered her devoted love for
her unworthy brother, I vowed never to touch wine again; to absent
myself from the associates who had led me to dissipation. Beulah, I
was honest, and intended to reform from that hour. But Antoinette's
avowed coldness, or, to call it by its proper name, heartless
selfishness and fondness for admiration, first disgusted and then
maddened me. I would have gladly spent my evenings quietly, in our
elegant home; but she contrived to have it crowded with visitors as
soulless and frivolous as herself. I remonstrated; she was sneering,
defiant, and unyielding, and assured me she would 'amuse' herself as
she thought proper; I followed her example, and went back to the
reckless companions who continually beset my path. I was miserably
deceived in Antoinette's character. She was very beautiful, and I
was blind to her mental, nay, I may as well say it at once, her
moral, defects. I believed she was warmly attached to me, and I
loved her most devotedly. But no sooner were we married than I
discovered my blind rashness. Cornelia warned me; but what man,
fascinated by a beautiful girl, ever listened to counsels that
opposed his heart? Antoinette is too intensely selfish to love
anything or anybody but herself; she does not even love her child.
Strange as it may seem, she is too entirely engrossed by her weak
fondness for display and admiration even to caress her babe. Except
at breakfast and dinner we rarely meet, and then, unless company is
present (which is generally the case), our intercourse is studiedly
cold. Do you wonder that I am hopeless in view of a life passed with
such a companion? Oh, that I could blot out the last two years of my
existence!"

He groaned, and shaded his face with his hands.

"But, Eugene, probably your reformation and altered course will win
you your wife's love and reverence," suggested Beulah, anxious to
offer some incentive to exertion.

"I know her nature too well to hope that. A woman who prefers to
dance and ride with gentlemen rather than remain in her luxurious
home with her babe and her duties, cannot be won from her moth-like
life. No, no! I despair of happiness from her society and affection,
and, if at all, must derive it from other sources. My child is the
one living blossom amidst all my withered hopes. She is the only
treasure I have, except your friendship. She shall never blush for
her father's degradation. Henceforth, though an unhappy man, I shall
prove myself a temperate one. I cannot trust my child's education to
Antoinette; she is unworthy the sacred charge; I must fit myself to
form her character. Oh, Beulah, if I could make her such a woman as
you are, then I could indeed bear my lot patiently! I named her
Cornelia, but henceforth she shall be called Beulah also, in token
of her father's gratitude to his truest friend."

"No, Eugene; call her not after me, lest some of my sorrows come
upon her young head. Oh, no! name her not Beulah; let her be called
Cornelia. I would not have her soul shrouded as mine has been."
Beulah spoke vehemently, and, laying her hand on his arm, she added:

"Eugene, to-day you will leave me and go back to your own house, to
your family; but before you go, I ask you, if not for your sake, for
that of your child, to promise me solemnly that you will never again
touch intoxicating drinks of any kind. Oh, will you promise? Will
you reform entirely?"

There was a brief pause, and he answered slowly:

"I promise, Beulah. Nay, my friend, I swear I will abstain in
future. Ah, I will never disgrace my angel child! Never, so help me
Heaven!"

The sound of approaching steps interrupted the conversation, and,
expecting to see Antoinette and her infant, accompanied by Mr. and
Mrs. Graham, Beulah looked up quickly, and perceived Mr. Lindsay.

"Does my advent startle you, that you look so pale and breathless?"
said he, smiling as he took her hand.

"I am certainly very much surprised to see you here, sir."

"And I am heartily glad you have come, Reginald," cried Eugene,
returning his friend's tight clasp.

"I intended coming to nurse you, Graham, as soon as I heard of the
accident, but my mother's illness prevented my leaving home. I need
not ask about your arm; I see it still requires cautious handling;
but how are you otherwise? Regaining your strength, I hope?"

"Yes; gradually. I am better than I deserve to be, Reginald."

"That remains to be proved in future, Graham. Come, get well as
rapidly as possible; I have a plan to submit to you, the earliest
day you are strong enough to discuss business topics. Miss Beulah,
let me sharpen your pencil."

He took it from her, trimmed it carefully, and handed it back; then
drew her portfolio near him, and glanced over the numerous
unfinished sketches.

"I have several books filled with European sketches which, I think,
might afford you some pleasure. They were taken by different
persons; and some of the views on the Rhine, and particularly some
along the southern shore of Spain, are unsurpassed by any I have
seen. You may receive them some day, after I return."

"Thank you; I shall copy them with great pleasure."

"I see you are not as much of a pyrrhonist in art as in philosophy,"
said Mr. Lindsay, watching her countenance as she bent over her
drawing.

"Who told you, sir, that I was one in any department?" She looked up
suddenly, with flashing eyes.

"There is no need to be told. I can readily perceive it."

"Your penetration is at fault, then. Of all others, the charge of
pyrrhonism is the last I merit."

He smiled, and said quietly:

"What, then, is your aesthetic creed, if I may inquire?"

"It is nearly allied to Cousin's."

"I thought you had abjured eclecticism; yet Cousin is its apostle.
Once admit his theory of the beautiful, and you cannot reject his
psychology and ethics; nay, his theodicea."

"I do not desire to separate his system; as such I receive it."

Beulah compressed her lips firmly and looked at her interrogator
half defiantly.

"You deliberately shut your eyes, then, to the goal his philosophy
sets before you?"

"No; I am nearing the goal, looking steadily toward it." She spoke
hastily, and with an involuntary wrinkling of her brow.

"And that goal is pantheism; draped gorgeously, but pantheism
still," answered Mr. Lindsay, with solemn emphasis.

"No; his whole psychology is opposed to pantheism!" cried Beulah,
pushing aside her drawing materials and meeting his eyes fixedly.

"You probably attach undue weight to his assertion that, although
God passes into the universe, or therein manifests all the elements
of his being, he is not 'exhausted in the act.' Now, granting, for
the sake of argument, that God is not entirely absorbed in the
universe, Cousin's pet doctrine of the 'Spontaneous Apperception of
Absolute Truths' clearly renders man a modification of God.
Difference in degree, you know, implies sameness of kind; from this
there is no escape. He says, 'The God of consciousness is not a
solitary sovereign, banished beyond creation, upon the throne of a
silent eternity, and an absolute existence, which resembles
existence in no respect whatever. He is a God, at once true and
real, substance and cause, one and many, eternity and time, essence
and life, end and middle; at the summit of existence and at its
base, infinite and finite together; in a word, a Trinity; being at
the same time God, Nature, and Humanity.' His separation of reason
and reasoning, and the results of his boasted 'spontaneous
apperception,' are very nearly allied to those of Schelling's
'Intellectual Intuition'; yet I suppose you would shrink from the
'absolute identity' of the latter?"

"You have not stated the question fairly, sir. He reiterates that
the absolute belongs to none of us. We perceive truth, but do not
create it!" retorted Beulah.

"You will perhaps remember his saying explicitly that we can
comprehend the Absolute?"

"Yes; I recollect; and, moreover, he declares that 'we are conducted
to God by a ray of his own being.'"

"Can limited faculties comprehend the infinite and eternal creator?"

"We do not attain a knowledge of him through finite channels. Cousin
contends that it is by means of relation to the absolute that we
know God."

"Then, to know the absolute, or God, you must be the absolute; or,
in other words, God only can find God. This is the simple doctrine,
when you unwind the veil he has cleverly hung over it. True, he
denounces pantheism; but here is pantheism of the eclectic patent,
differing from that of other systems only in subtlety of expression,
wherein Cousin certainly excels. One of the most profound
philosophical writers of the age, [Footnote: J. D. Moreil.
"Speculative Philosophy of Europe."] and one whose opinion on this
point certainly merits careful consideration, has remarked, in an
analysis of Cousin's system, 'with regard to his notion of Deity, we
have already shown how closely this verges upon the principle of
Pantheism. Even if we admit that it is not a doctrine, like that of
Spinoza, which identifies God with the abstract idea of substance;
or even like that of Hegel, which regards Deity as synonymous with
the absolute law and process of the universe; if we admit, in fact,
that the Deity of Cousin possesses a conscious personality, yet
still it is one which contains in itself the infinite personality
and consciousness of every subordinate mind. God is the ocean--we
are but the waves; the ocean may be one individuality, and each wave
another; but still they are essentially one and the same. We see not
how Cousin's Theism can possibly be consistent with any idea of
moral evil; neither do we see how, starting from such a dogma, he
can ever vindicate and uphold his own theory of human liberty. On
such theistic principles all sin must be simply defect, and all
defect must be absolutely fatuitous.' Eclecticism was a beautiful
but frail levee, opposed to the swollen tide of skepticism, and, as
in every other crevasse when swept away, it only caused the stream
to rush on more madly."

He watched her closely as he spoke, and observed the quiver of her
long, curling lashes; he saw, too, that she was resolved not to
surrender, and waited for an explicit defense; but here Eugene
interrupted.

"All this tweedledum and tweedledee reminds me of Heidelberg days,
when a few of us roamed about the Odenwald, chopping off flowers
with our canes and discussing philosophy. Rare jargon we made of it;
talking of cosmothetie idealism or hypothetical dualism, of noetic
and dianoetic principles, of hylozoism and hypostasis, and
demonstrating the most undemonstrable propositions by appeals to the
law of contradiction or of excluded middle. I fancied then that I
was growing very learned--wondered whether Beulah here would be able
to keep up with me, and really thought I understood what I
discoursed about so logically."

"You can at least console yourself, Graham, by determining that

  "'You know what's what, and that's as high
    As metaphysic wit can fly.'"

I imagine there are very few of us who would agree with some of our
philosophers, that 'the pursuit of truth is far more important than
the attainment thereof'--that philosophizing is more valuable than
philosophy. To be conversant with the abstractions which, in the
hands of some metaphysical giants, have rendered both mind and
matter like abstractions, is a course of proceeding I should
scarcely indorse; and the best antidote I remember just now to any
such web-spinning proclivities is a persual of the three first
lectures of Sidney Smith on 'Moral Philosophy.' In recapitulating
the tenets of the schools, he says: 'The speculations of many of the
ancients on the human understanding are so confused, and so purely
hypothetical, that their greatest admirers are not agreed upon their
meaning; and whenever we can procure a plain statement of their
doctrines, all other modes of refuting them appear to be wholly
superfluous.' Miss Beulah, I especially commend you to these
humorous lectures." He bowed to her with easy grace.

"I have them, sir--have read them with great pleasure," said Beulah,
smiling at his droll manner of mingled reserve and freedom.

"What an exalted estimate that same incorrigible Sidney must have
placed upon the public taste of this republican land of ours? In one
of his lectures on 'the beauty of form,' I remember he says: 'A chin
ending in a very sharp angle would be a perfect deformity. A man
whose chin terminated in a point would be under the immediate
necessity of retiring to America--he would be such a perfect
horror!' Decidedly flattering to our national type of beauty." As
Eugene spoke, his lips wore a smile more akin to those of his
boyhood than any Beulah had seen since his return from Europe.

"Yes; that was to show the influence of custom, be it remembered;
and, in the same connection, he remarks, honestly enough, that he
'hardly knows what a Grecian face is; but thinks it very probable
that if the elegant arts had been transmitted to us from the
Chinese, instead of the Greeks, that singular piece of deformity--a
Chinese nose--would have been held in high estimation.' It was
merely association."

"Which I don't believe a word of!" cried Beulah, appropriating the
last as a lunge at her favorite absolutism. Rising, she placed her
drawings in the portfolio, for the sun had crept round the corner of
the gallery and was shining in her face.

Mr. Lindsay smiled, without replying, and gave his arm to assist
Eugene into the house. They were comfortably seated in the dining
room, and Beulah knew that the discussion was about to be renewed,
when a carriage dashed up to the door. Eugene turned pale, and a
sudden rigidity seized his features. Beulah gave her guest a quick,
meaning glance, and retreated to the gallery, whither he instantly
followed her, leaving Eugene to receive his wife without witnesses.
Leaning against one of the pillars, Beulah unfastened a wreath of
blue convolvulus which Mrs. Williams had twined in her hair an hour
before. The delicate petals were withered, and, with a suppressed
sigh, she threw them away. Mr. Lindsay drew a letter from his pocket
and handed it to her, saying briefly:

"I was commissioned to give you this, and, knowing the contents,
hope a favorable answer."

It was from Clara, urging her to come up the following week and
officiate as bridesmaid at her wedding. She could return home with
Helen and George Asbury. Beulah read the letter, smiled sadly, and
put it in her pocket.

"Will you go?"

"No, sir."

"Why not? You need a change of air, and the trip would benefit you.
You do not probably know how much you have altered in appearance
since I saw you. My uncle is coming out to persuade you to go. Can't
I succeed without his aid?"

"I could not leave home now. Eugene's illness has prevented my
accomplishing some necessary work, and as I consign him to other
hands to-day, I must make amends for my long indolence. Thank you
for taking charge of my letter; but I cannot think of going."

He perceived that no amount of persuasion would avail, and for an
instant a look of annoyance crossed his face. But his brow cleared
as he said, with a smile:

"For a year I have watched for your articles, and the magazine is a
constant companion of my desk. Sometimes I am tempted to criticise
your sketches; perhaps I may do so yet, and that in no Boswell
spirit either."

"Doubtless, sir, you would find them very vulnerable to criticism,
which nowadays has become a synonym for fault-finding; at least this
carping proclivity characterizes the class who seem desirous only of
earning reputation as literary Jeffreys. I am aware, sir, that I am
very vulnerable."

"Suppose, then, that at the next month's literary assize (as you
seem disposed to consider it), you find in some of the magazines a
severe animadversion upon the spirit of your writings? Dare I do
this, and still hope for your friendship?"

He watched her closely.

"Certainly, sir. I am not writing merely to see myself in print, nor
wholly for remuneration in dollars and cents. I am earnestly
searching for truth, and if in my articles you discover error and
can correct it, I shall be glad to have you do so, provided you
adopt the catholic spirit which should distinguish such
undertakings. Now, if you merely intend to hold me up for ridicule
as thoroughly as possible, I prefer that you let me and my articles
rest; but a calm, dispassionate criticism I should not shrink from.
I write only what I believe, and if I am in error, I shall be glad
to have it corrected."

"Miss Benton, may I venture to correct it without having recourse to
the vehicle of public criticism? Will you permit me to discuss with
you, here in your quiet home, those vital questions whose solution
seems to engage your every thought?"

She drew back, and answered, with a dreary sort of smile:

"I am afraid you would derive little pleasure, and I less profit,
from such disputation. I have learned from bitter experience that
merely logical forms of argumentation do not satisfy the hungry
soul. The rigid processes of Idealism annihilated the external
world; and Hume proved that Mind was a like chimera; yet who was
ever seriously converted by their incontrovertible reasoning? I have
lost faith in ratiocination."

"Still you cling to opinions founded on its errors. Why not be
consistent, and, in rejecting its most potent ally, reject the
conclusions of Rationalism also?"

"Because I must believe something. Faith in some creed is an
absolute necessity of human nature."

"You distinguish faith, then, from intellectual belief?"

"No; I compound them; my faith is based on mental conviction,"
replied Beulah, perceiving whither he was leading her, and resolved
not to follow.

"And this conviction results from those same processes of
ratiocination which you condemn as unworthy of credence, because
subject to gross, sometimes ludicrous, perversions?"

"I am unable to detect any such perversion or inaccuracy in the
cautious course of reasoning which has assisted me to my present
belief."

"Pardon me; but does this fact convince you of the Infallibility of
the course? Have you constituted your individual reason the sole
judge?"

"Yes; there is no other left me."

"And your conclusions are true for you only, since the individual
organism of your mind makes them so. To an intellect of a higher or
lower grade these conclusions would be untenable, since the
depressed or exalted reason judged them accordingly. You may cling
to some doctrine as absolutely and necessarily true, yet to my mind
it may seem a shallow delusion, like the vagaries of spirit-
rappers."

"No; reasoning is often fallacious, but reason is divine; reasoning
often clouds the truth, but reason, by spontaneous apperception,
grasps truth," persisted Beulah unhesitatingly.

"Then truth has as many phases, and as antagonistic, as there are
individuals in the universe. All men are prophets; all are alike
inspired; all alike worthy of trust and credence. Spontaneous reason
has grasped a number of oddly conflicting doctrines, let me tell
you, and the reconciliation of these would be an undertaking to
which the dozen labors of Hercules seem a farce."

"The superstitions of various ages and nations are not valid
arguments against the existence of universal and necessary
principles."

"Why, then, have these principles produced no unanimity of faith?
The history of the human race is the history of the rise of one
philosophy and religion from the ashes of its predecessor. There is
one universal belief in the necessity of religion, and this belief
built altars in the dawn of time; but your spontaneous reason is
perpetually changing the idols on these altars. The God of one man's
reason will not satisfy that of his neighbor."

Before Beulah could reply she heard Eugene calling her in the hall,
and was hastening to meet him; but Mr. Lindsay caught her hand, and
said: "You have not yet given me permission to intrude on your
seclusion." She withdrew her hand instantly.

"When you have nothing else to occupy you, and wish to while away an
hour in literary discussion, you will generally find me at home
during vacation."

She walked on and joined Eugene in the hall. Antoinette stood in the
door, and they merely exchanged bows, while Mr. Graham grasped her
hand and earnestly thanked her for the many kindnesses she had
rendered to his family. Beulah looked at the composed, beautiful
face of the young wife, and then at the thin form of the husband,
and said hastily:

"You owe me no thanks, sir; the claims of true friendship are
imperative. In removing to his own house I trust Eugene's
improvement may not be retarded."

Antoinette tripped down the steps, and, gathering the flounces of
her costly dress, seated herself in the carriage. Mr. Graham bit his
lip, colored, and, after a cordial good-by, joined her. Eugene
smiled bitterly, and, turning to Beulah, took both her hands in his,
saying feelingly:

"Beulah, I leave your house a wiser, if not less miserable man. I am
going to atone for the past; to prove to you that your faith in me
is not altogether unmerited. If I am saved from ruin and disgrace I
owe it to you; and to you I shall look for sympathy and
encouragement. To you, my best friend, I shall often come for
sisterly aid, when clouds gather black and stormy over my miserable
home. God bless you, Beulah! I have promised reformation, and will
keep my promise sacred if it cost me my life."

He raised her hand to his lips, and, linking his arm in Mr.
Lindsay's, left the house and entered the carriage, while the latter
mounted his horse and rode slowly away.

"You look weary, child. You must give yourself some rest now," said
Mrs. Williams, wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron.

"Rest! Ah, yes; if I could find it," returned the girl, taking the
comb from the back of her head and shaking down the folds of hair
till it hung round her like a long mourning veil.

"Suppose you try to sleep some," suggested the matron.

"I have some work to do first," said she, drawing a long breath and
wiping the dust from her desk.

Mrs. Williams withdrew; and, clasping her hands over her forehead,
Beulah stood looking up, with dim eyes, at the cloudless face that
smiled down on her, until she almost fancied the lips parted to
address her.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Mr. Lindsay's visits grew more frequent. At first Beulah wondered
what brought him so often from his distant home to the city, and
supposed it must be some legal business which engaged him; but
gradually a different solution dawned upon her mind. She rejected it
as the prompting of vanity, but again and again the supposition
recurred. The imperturbable gravity and repose of his manner often
disconcerted her. It was in vain that she resorted to sarcasm, and
irony; he was incorrigibly unruffled; in vain she was cold,
repellent, haughty; his quiet smile remained unaltered. His
superior, and thoroughly cultivated intellect, and the unaffected
simplicity of his manner, characterized by singular candor, rendered
him an unusually agreeable companion; but Beulah rebelled against
the unobtrusive yet constant care with which she fancied he watched
her. The seclusion of her life, and the reserve of her nature,
conspired to impart a degree of abruptness to her own manners; and
to one who understood her character less than Reginald Lindsay there
was an unhesitating sincerity of expression which might have been
termed rudeness. The frequency of his visits attracted the attention
of strangers; already the busy tongue of meddling gossip had
connected their names; Dr. Asbury, too, bantered her unmercifully
upon his nephew's constant pilgrimages to the city; and the result
was that Mr. Lindsay's receptions grew colder and less flattering
continually. From the first she had not encouraged his visits, and
now she positively discouraged them by every intimation which the
rules of etiquette justified her in offering. Yet she respected,
esteemed, and in many things admired him; and readily confessed to
her own heart that his society often gave her pleasure,

One winter evening she sat alone by the dining-room fire, with a
newspaper in her hand, reading a notice of the last number of the
magazine, in which one of her sketches was roughly handled. Of
course she was no better pleased with the unflattering criticism
than the majority of writers in such cases. She frowned, bit her
lip, and wondered who could have written it. The review was
communicated, and the paper had been sent to her by some unknown
hand. Once more she read the article, and her brow cleared, while a
smile broke over her face. She had recognized a particular dictum,
and was no longer puzzled. Leaning her head on her palm, she sat
looking into the fire, ruminating on the objections urged against
her piece; it was the first time she had ever been unfavorably
criticised, and this was sufficient food for thought.

Mr. Lindsay came in and stood near her unobserved. They had not met
for several weeks, and she was not aware that he was in the city.
Charon, who lay on the rug at her feet, growled, and she looked
round.

"Good-evening," said her visitor, extending his hand.

She did not accept it; but merely inclined her head, saying:

"Ah, how do you do, sir?"

He laid a package on the table, drew a chair near the hearth without
looking at her, and, calling to Charon, patted his huge head kindly.

"What have you there, Miss Beulah? Merely a newspaper; it seems to
interest you intensely. May I see it?"

"I am certainly very much obliged to you, sir, for the chivalrous
spirit in which you indited your criticism. I was just pondering it
when you entered."

She smiled as she spoke, and shook the paper at him.

"I thought I had feigned a style you would not recognize," he
answered quite unconcernedly.

"You succeeded admirably, with the exception of one pet phrase,
which betrayed you. Next time, recollect that you are very partial
to some particular expressions, with which I happen to be
acquainted; and avoid their introduction."

"I rather think I shall not repeat the experiment; especially as my
arguments seem to have failed signally in their design. Are you
quite sure that you understand my review perfectly?"

He looked a little curious--she fancied disappointed--and she
replied laughingly:

"Oh, I think I do; it is not so very abstruse."

He leaned forward, took the paper from her, before she was aware of
his intention, and threw it into the fire.

She looked surprised, and he offered his hand once more.

"Are we still friends? Will you shake hands with your reviewer?"

She unhesitatingly put her hand in his, and answered:

"Friendship is not a gossamer thread, to be severed by a stroke of
the pen."

She endeavored to withdraw her fingers, but he held them firmly,
while his blue eyes rested upon her with an expression she by no
means liked. Her black brows met in a heavy frown, and her lips
parted angrily. He saw it, and instantly released her hand.

"Miss Beulah, my uncle commissioned me to say to you that he
received a letter to-day from Dr. Hartwell. It was written during
his voyage down the Red Sea, and contained a long farewell, as
inland travel would afford no facilities for writing."

He noted the tight clasp in which her fingers locked each other, and
the livid paleness of her lips and brow, as the long lashes drooped
and she sat silently listening. Charon laid his head on her knee and
looked up at her. There was a brief silence, and Mr. Lindsay added
slowly:

"My uncle fears he will never return. Do you cherish the hope?"

"Yes; he will come back, if his life is spared. It may be many
years; but he will come, he will come."

Their eyes met; there was a long, searching look from Mr. Lindsay;
she did not shrink from the scrutiny. An expression of keen sorrow
swept over his face, but he conquered his emotion, took the parcel
he had brought, and, unwrapping a book, said, in his usual quiet
tone:

"When I saw you last you were regretting your inability to procure
Sir William Hamilton's 'Philosophy of the Conditioned,' and I have
taken the liberty of bringing you my own copy. Read it at your
leisure; I shall not need it again soon. I do not offer it as a
system which will satisfy your mind, by solving all your problems;
but I do most earnestly commend his 'Philosophy of the Conditioned,'
as the surest antidote to the abstractions in which your speculation
has involved you. The most erudite scholar of the age, and one of
the finest metaphysical minds the world has ever known, he expressly
sums up his vast philosophic researches with the humble confession:
'There are two sorts of ignorances; we philosophize to escape
ignorance, and the consummation of our philosophy is ignorance; we
start from the one, we repose in the other; they are the goals from
which, and to which, we tend; and the pursuit of knowledge is but a
course between two ignorances, as human life is itself only a
traveling from grave to grave. The highest reach of human science is
the scientific recognition of human ignorance.' Like you, Miss
Beulah, I set out to discover some system where no mysteries
existed; where I should only believe what I could clearly
comprehend. 'Yes,' said I proudly, 'I will believe nothing that I
cannot understand.' I wandered on until, like you, I stood in a wide
waste, strewn with the wreck of beliefs. My pride asserted that my
reason was the only and sufficient guide, and whither did it lead
me? Into vagaries more inexplicable than aught I fled from in
Revelation. It was easier to believe that, 'in the beginning, God
created the heaven and the earth,' than that the glorious universe
looked to chance as its sole architect, or that it was a huge
lumbering machine of matter, grinding out laws. I saw that I was the
victim of a miserable delusion in supposing my finite faculties
could successfully grapple with the mysteries of the universe. I
found that to receive the attempted solutions of philosophy required
more faith than Revelation, and my proud soul humbled itself and
rested in the Bible. My philosophic experience had taught me that if
mankind were to have any knowledge of their origin, their destiny,
their God, it must be revealed by that God, for man could never
discover aught for himself. There are mysteries in the Bible which I
cannot explain; but it bears incontrovertible marks of divine
origin, and as such I receive it. I can sooner believe the Mosaic
revelation than the doctrine which tells you that you are part of
God and capable of penetrating to absolute truth. To quote the
expressive language of an acute critic (whose well-known
latitudinarianism and disbelief in the verbal inspiration of
Scripture give peculiar weight to his opinion on this subject),
'when the advocates of this natural, spontaneous inspiration will
come forth from their recesses of thought and deliver prophecies as
clear as those of the Hebrew seer; when they shall mold the elements
of nature to their will; when they shall speak with the sublime
authority of Jesus of Nazareth; and with the same infinite ease,
rising beyond all the influence of time, place, and circumstances,
explain the past and unfold the future; when they die for the truth
they utter, and rise again as witnesses to its divinity; then we may
begin to place them on the elevation which they so thoughtlessly
claim. But until they either prove these facts to be delusions, or
give their parallel in themselves, the world may well laugh at their
ambition and trample their spurious inspiration beneath its feet.'
There is an infinite, eternal, and loving God; I am a finite
creature, unable to comprehend him, and knowing him only through his
own revelation. This very revelation is insufficient for our
aspiring souls, I grant; but it declares emphatically that here 'we
see through a glass darkly.' Better this than the starless night in
which you grope, without a promise of the dawn of eternity, where
all mystery shall be explained. Are you not weary of fruitless,
mocking speculation?" He looked at her anxiously.

She raised her colorless face, and said drearily, as she passed her
hand over her forehead:

"Weary? Ah, yes; weary as the lonely mariner, tempest-tossed on some
pathless ocean, without chart or compass. In my sky, even the star
of hope is shrouded. Weary? Yes; in body and mind."

"Then humble your proud intellect; confess your ignorance and
inability, and rest in God and Christianity."

She made an impatient gesture, and, turning away, he walked up and
down the floor. For some moments neither spoke. Finally he
approached her, and continued:

"There is strange significance in the Mosaic record of the Fall.
Longing for the fruits of knowledge, whereby the mysteries of God
would be revealed, cost man Eden. The first pair ate, knowledge
mocked them, and only the curse remained. That primeval curse of
desiring to know all things descended to all posterity, and at this
instant you exemplify its existence. Ah! you must humble your
intellect if you would have it exalted; must be willing to be guided
along unknown paths by other light than that of reason if you would
be happy. Well might Sir William Hamilton exclaim: 'It is this
powerful tendency of the most vigorous minds to transcend the sphere
of our faculties, which makes a "learned ignorance" the most
difficult acquirement, perhaps indeed the consummation of
knowledge.'"

He sighed as he uttered these words; she said nothing; and, putting
his hand gently upon hers, as they lay folded on the table beside
her, he added sadly:

"I had hoped that I could aid you; but I see my efforts are useless;
you will not be guided nor influenced by others; are determined to
wander on in ever-deepening night, solitary and restless! God help
you, Beulah!"

A shudder ran over her; but she made no reply.

He took her cold hands in his.

"And now we part. Since the evening I first saw you with your basket
of strawberries, I have cherished the hope that I might one day be
more than a friend. You have constantly shown me that I was nothing
more to you; I have seen it all along, but still I hoped; and,
notwithstanding your coldness, I shall continue to hope. My love is
too entirely yours to be readily effaced. I can wait patiently.
Beulah, you do not love me now; perhaps never can; but I shall at
least cling to the hope. I shall not come again; shall not weary you
with professions and attentions. I know your nature, and even had I
the power would not persuade you to give me your hand now. But time
may change your feelings; on this frail tenure I rest my hopes.
Meantime, should circumstances occur which demand the aid or counsel
of devoted friendship, may I ask you to feel no hesitancy in
claiming any assistance I can render? And, Beulah, at any instant, a
line, a word can recall me. The separation will be very painful to
me; but I cannot longer obtrude myself on your presence. If, as I
earnestly hope, the hour, however distant, should come when you
desire to see me, oh, Beulah, how gladly will I hasten to you--"

"We can never be more than friends; never!" cried Beulah.

"You think so now, and perhaps I am doomed to disappointment; but,
without your sanction, I shall hope it. Good-by." He pressed his
lips to her hand and walked away.

Beulah heard the closing of the little gate, and then, for the first
time, his meaning flashed upon her mind. He believed she loved her
guardian; fancied that long absence would obliterate his image from
her heart, and that, finally, grown indifferent to one who might
never return, she would give her love to him whose constancy merited
it. Genuine delicacy of feeling prevented his expressing all this;
but she was conscious now that only this induced his unexpected
course toward herself. A burning flush suffused her face as she
exclaimed:

"Oh, how unworthy I am of such love as his! how utterly
undeserving!"

Soon after, opening the book he had brought at the place designated,
she drew the lamp near her and began its perusal. Hour after hour
glided away, and not until the last page was concluded did she lay
it aside. The work contained very little that was new; the same
trains of thought had passed through her mind more than once before;
but here they were far more clearly and forcibly expressed.

She drew her chair to the window, threw up the sash, and looked out.
It was wintry midnight, and the sky blazed with its undying watch-
fires. This starry page was the first her childish intellect had
puzzled over. She had, from early years, gazed up into the
glittering temple of night, and asked: "Whence came yon silent
worlds, floating in solemn grandeur along the blue, waveless ocean
of space? Since the universe sprang phoenix-like from that dim
chaos, which may have been but the charnel-house of dead worlds,
those unfading lights have burned on, bright as when they sang
together at the creation. And I have stretched out my arms
helplessly to them, and prayed to hear just once their unceasing
chant of praise to the Lord of Glory. Will they shine on forever? or
are they indeed God's light-bearers, set to illumine the depths of
space and blaze a path along which the soul may travel to its God?
Will they one day flicker and go out?" To every thoughtful mind
these questions propound themselves, and Beulah especially had
essayed to answer them. Science had named the starry hosts, and
computed their movements with wonderful skill; but what could it
teach her of their origin and destiny? Absolutely nothing. And how
stood her investigations in the more occult departments of
psychology and ontology? An honest seeker of truth, what had these
years of inquiry and speculation accomplished? Let her answer as,
with face bowed on her palms, her eyes roved over the midnight sky.

"Once I had some principles, some truths clearly defined; but now I
know nothing distinctly, believe nothing. The more I read and study
the more obscure seem the questions I am toiling to answer. Is this
increasing intricacy the reward of an earnestly inquiring mind? Is
this to be the end of all my glorious aspirations? Have I come to
this? 'Thus far, and no farther.' I have stumbled on these
boundaries many times, and now must I rest here? Oh, is this my
recompense? Can this be all? All!" Smothered sobs convulsed her
frame.

She had long before rejected a "revealed code" as unnecessary; the
next step was to decipher nature's symbols, and thus grasp God's
hidden laws; but here the old trouble arose. How far was
"individualism" allowable and safe? To reconcile the theories of
rationalism, she felt, was indeed a herculean task, and she groped
on into deeper night. Now and then her horizon was bestarred, and,
in her delight, she shouted, "Eureka!" But when the telescope of her
infallible reason was brought to bear upon the coldly glittering
points, they flickered and went out. More than once a flaming comet,
of German manufacture, trailed in glory athwart her dazzled vision;
but close observation resolved the gilded nebula, and the nucleus
mocked her. Doubt engendered doubt; the death of one difficulty was
the instant birth of another. Wave after wave of skepticism surged
over her soul, until the image of a great personal God was swept
from its altar. But atheism never yet usurped the sovereignty of the
human mind; in all ages, moldering vestiges of protean deism
confront the giant specter, and every nation under heaven has reared
its fane to the "unknown God." Beulah had striven to enthrone in her
desecrated soul the huge, dim, shapeless phantom of pantheism, and
had turned eagerly to the system of Spinoza. The heroic grandeur of
the man's life and character had strangely fascinated her; but now,
that idol of a "substance, whose two infinite attributes were
extension and thought," mocked her; and she hurled it from its
pedestal, and looked back wistfully to the pure faith of her
childhood. A Godless world; a Godless woman. She took up the lamp
and retired to her own room. On all sides books greeted her; here
was the varied lore of dead centuries; here she had held communion
with the great souls entombed in these dusty pages. Here, wrestling
alone with those grim puzzles, she had read out the vexed and vexing
questions, in this debating club of the moldering dead, and
endeavored to make them solve them. These well-worn volumes, with
close "marginalias," echoed her inquiries, but answered them not to
her satisfaction. Was her life to be thus passed in feverish toil
and ended as by a leap out into a black, shoreless abyss? Like a
spent child she threw her arms on the mantelpiece and wept
uncontrollably, murmuring:

"Oh, better die now than live as I have lived, in perpetual
stragglings! What is life worth without peace of mind, without hope;
and what hope have I? Diamonded webs of sophistry can no longer
entangle; like Noah's dove, my soul has fluttered among them,
striving in vain for a sure hold to perch upon; but, unlike it, I
have no ark to flee to. Weary and almost hopeless, I would fain
believe that this world is indeed as a deluge, and in it there is no
ark of refuge but the Bible. It is true, I did not see this souls'
ark constructed; I know nothing of the machinery employed; and no
more than Noah's dove can I explore and fully understand its secret
chambers; yet, all untutored, the exhausted bird sought safety in
the incomprehensible, and was saved. As to the mysteries of
revelation and inspiration, why, I meet mysteries, turn which way I
will. Man, earth, time, eternity, God, are all inscrutable mysteries
My own soul is a mystery unto itself, and so long as I am impotent
to fathom its depths, how shall I hope to unfold the secrets of the
universe?"

She had rejected Christian theism, because she could not understand
how God had created the universe out of nothing. True, "with God,
all things are possible"; but she could not understand this creation
out of nothing, and therefore would not believe it. Yet (oh,
inconsistency of human reasoning!) she had believed that the
universe created laws; that matter gradually created mind. This was
the inevitable result of pantheism; for, according to geology, there
was a primeval period when neither vegetable nor animal life
existed; when the earth was a huge mass of inorganic matter. Of two
incomprehensibilities, which was the most plausible? To-night this
question recurred to her mind with irresistible force, and, as her
eyes wandered over the volumes she had so long consulted, she
exclaimed:

"Oh, philosophy! thou hast mocked my hungry soul; thy gilded fruits
have crumbled to ashes in my grasp. In lieu of the holy faith of my
girlhood, thou hast given me but dim, doubtful conjecture, cold
metaphysical abstractions, intangible shadows, that flit along my
path, and lure me on to deeper morasses. Oh, what is the shadow of
death, in comparison with the starless night which has fallen upon
me, even in the morning of my life! My God, save me! Give me light!
Of myself I can know nothing!"

Her proud intellect was humbled, and, falling on her knees, for the
first time in many months, a sobbing prayer went up to the throne of
the living God; while the vast clockwork of stars looked in on a
pale brow and lips, where heavy drops of moisture glistened.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


Four years had passed since Eugene Graham returned to his home,
after his severe illness, and now, as he sits alone in his library,
with a bundle of legal documents before him, it is not difficult to
perceive that his promise has been held sacred. Through the
suggestion of Mr. Lindsay, and the persuasions of Beulah, he had
closely applied himself to the study of law immediately after his
recovery. Hopeless of happiness in his home, ambition became the
ruling passion, and scourged him on to unceasing exertion. The
aspirations of his boyhood revived; the memory of his humiliating
course goaded him to cover the past with the garlands of fame; and
consciousness of unusual talents assured him of final success. Mr.
Graham no longer opposed the design as formerly, but facilitated its
execution to the utmost of his ability. Under these circumstances,
it was not surprising that earnest application soon procured his
admission to the bar. His efforts were redoubled, and, ere long, his
eloquence obtained for him a connection with one of the most
prominent members of the profession. The world wondered at this
complete revolution; many doubted its continuance; but, step by
step, he climbed the ladder to eminence, and merited the applause
which the public lavished upon him. Success only inflamed his
ambition, and it became evident he aimed at political renown. Nature
had fitted him for the political arena, had endowed him with
oratorical powers of no ordinary stamp; and, though long dormant,
they were not impaired by his inertia. It was fortunate for him that
an exciting Presidential canvass afforded numerous opportunities for
the development of these, and at its close he found himself
possessed of an enviable reputation. To a certain extent, his wife
was elated with his success; she was proud of his acknowledged
talent; but her selfish nature was utterly incapable of the
tenderness and sincere affection he demanded. Their alienation was
complete. No bickerings disturbed the serene atmosphere of their
home, because mutual indifference precluded the necessity. Mrs.
Graham gave parties and attended them; rode, danced, spent her
summers at fashionable watering-places and her winters in a round of
folly and dissipation, while her husband pursued his profession,
careless of her movements and rarely in her company. In the lady's
conduct the circle in which she moved saw nothing reprehensible. She
dressed superbly, gave elegant entertainments, and was, par
excellence, the leader of bon-ton. True, she was quite as much of a
belle as any young lady in the city, and received the attentions and
flattery of gentlemen as unreservedly, nay, delightedly, as though
she had no neglected husband and child at home who had claims upon
her; put this sort of conjugal indifference was in vogue, and, as
she frowned down, or smiled up, some family laboriously toiling to
reach her circle, her "clique" blindly followed her example and
humored her whims. As regarded her deportment toward her husband,
one alteration was perceptible; she respected--almost feared him;
shrank from his presence, and generally contrived to fill the house
with company when she was, for short intervals, at home. He ceased
to upbraid, or even remonstrate; his days were spent in the
courtroom or his office, and his evenings in his library. She
dressed as extravagantly as she chose; he made no comments, paid her
accounts, and grew more taciturn and abstracted day by day.

Oh, woman! woman! when will you sever the fetters which fashion,
wealth, and worldliness have bound about you, and prove yourselves
worthy the noble mission for which you were created? How much longer
will heartless, soulless wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters
waltz, moth-like, round the consuming flame of fashion; and, by
neglecting their duties and deserting their sphere, drive their
husbands, sons, and brothers out into the world, reckless and
depraved, with callous hearts, irrevocably laid on the altars of
Mammon? God help the women of America! Grant them the true womanly
instincts which, in the dawn of our republic, made "home" the Eden,
the acme of all human hopes and joys. Teach them that gilded
saloons, with their accompanying allurements of French latitude in
dress and dancing, and the sans-souci manners and style of
conversation (which, in less degenerate times, would have branded
with disgrace and infamy all who indulged it), teach them that all
these tend to the depths of social evil; and oh, lead them back to
the hearthstone, that holy post which too many, alas, have deserted!
Eugene Graham's love and tenderness were all bestowed on his
daughter, a beautiful child, not yet five years old; the sole
companion of the hours spent at home, she became his idol.

It was one sunny afternoon that he finished copying some papers,
necessary in a case to be defended the following day. The sunshine,
stealing through the shutters, fell on his lofty brow, pale from
continued study; his whole countenance bespoke a nature saddened,
vexed, but resolute, and, leaning forward, he touched the bell-rope.
As he did so, there came quick footsteps pattering along the hall;
the door was pushed open, and a little fairy form, with a head of
rich auburn ringlets, peeped in cautiously, while a sweet, childish
voice asked eagerly:

"May I come now, father? Have you done writing? I won't make a
noise; indeed I won't!"

The gloom fled from his face, and he held out his arms to her,
saying:

"I have done writing; you may come now, my darling."

She sprang into his lap and threw her little, snowy arms about his
neck, kissing him rapturously, and passing her fragile fingers
through his hair. She resembled him closely, having the same
classical contour and large, soft, dark eyes. He returned her
caresses with an expression of almost adoring fondness, stroking her
curls with a light, gentle touch. The evening was warm, and large
drops stood on his forehead. She noticed it, and, standing on his
knee, took the corner of her tiny embroidered apron and wiped away
the moisture, kissing the forehead as she did so. A servant looked
in at the door.

"Did you ring, sir?"

"Yes; tell Philip I want my buggy."

"Oh, you are going to ride! Can I go? and will we go to see Aunt
Beulah--will we?" She looked at him earnestly.

"Would you like to go there, Cornelia?"

"Oh, yes! I always like to go there. I love her, she is so good!
Let's go to see her, won't you?"

"Yes; you shall go with me, my darling."

He bent down to kiss her coral lips, and just then Mrs. Graham swept
into the room. She was attired in an elegant riding habit of dark
purple, while a velvet hat of the same color, with a long, drooping
plume, shaded her face. Her hands were incased in delicate kid
gauntlets, which fitted with perfect exactness. She was a beautiful
woman, and the costume heightened her loveliness. She started
slightly on perceiving her husband, and said hastily:

"I thought you were at your office. Cornelia, what on earth have you
done with my riding whip? you mischievous little wretch! You lost it
once before. Go find it; I am waiting for it. Go this instant!"

"I don't know where it is," returned the child, making no effort to
leave her father's arms.

Eugene glanced up at his wife; his eyes wandered over her becoming
and beautiful dress, then went back to the sunny face of his child.

An angry flush dyed Antoinette's cheeks as she observed her
daughter's indifference.

"Where is my whip? I say. Flora saw you with it yesterday, whipping
that hobby-horse. I told you to keep your hands off of it, didn't I?
If you don't go and find it quick, I'll box you soundly, you
meddlesome little brat!"

"I haven't had it since you told me I shouldn't play with it. Flora
tells a story," answered Cornelia, sobbing.

"You did have it!" cried the angry mother, shaking her hand
threateningly.

"Did you see her with it?" asked Eugene, rising, with the child in
his arms.

"I know she had it!"

"Did you see her with it, I asked you?"

"No; but Flora did, and that is all the same; besides, I--"

"Here is the whip, ma'am. I found it last week in the hall, behind a
chair, and put it in the cane stand. The last time you went to ride,
you put it and your gloves on a chair in the hall, and went into the
parlor to see some company. Flora picked up the gloves and carried
them upstairs, but didn't see the whip."

John, the dining-room servant, handed her a small whip, with mother-
of-pearl handle, inlaid with gold.

"It is no such thing!" cried Mrs. Graham, gathering up the folds of
her habit and coloring with vexation.

John shrugged his shoulders and retired, and his mistress sailed out
to the front door, where her horse and her escort awaited her.

"Run and get your hat and cape, Cornelia; I see the buggy coming
round the corner."

Eugene wiped away the teardrops glittering on her rosy cheeks, and
she sprang off to obey him; while, in the interim, he sent for
Flora, and gave her to understand that he would allow no repetition
of the deception he had accidentally discovered. The maid retired,
highly incensed, of course, and resolved to wreak vengeance on both
John and Cornelia; and Eugene took his seat in the buggy in no
particularly amiable mood. They found Beulah in her little flower
gaiden, pruning some luxuriant geraniums. She threw down her knife
and hastened to meet them, and all three sat down on the steps.

Four years had brought sorrow to that cottage home; had hushed the
kind accents of the matron; stilled the true heart that throbbed so
tenderly for her orphan charge, and had seen her laid to rest in a
warm, grassy slope of the cemetery. She died peaceably three months
before the day of which I write; died exhorting Eugene and Beulah so
to pass the season of probation that they might be reunited beyond
the grave. In life she had humbly exemplified the teachings of our
Saviour, and her death was a triumphant attestation of the joy and
hope which only the Christian religion can afford in the final hour.

To Beulah this blow was peculiarly severe, and never had the sense
of her orphanage been more painfully acute than when she returned
from the funeral to her lonely home. But to sorrow her nature was
inured; she had learned to bear grief, and only her mourning dress
and subdued manner told how deeply she felt this trial. Now she took
Cornelia in her arms and kissed her fondly, while the child returned
her caresses with a warmth which proved how sincerely she loved her.

"May I have some flowers, auntie?" cried she, patting Beulah's pale
cheek with her plump, dimpled hands.

"Yes; just as many as you can carry home. Go gather some."

She sprang off, and the two sat watching the flutter of her white
dress among the flower-beds. She piled her little apron as full as
possible, and came back panting and delighted. Beulah looked down at
the beautiful beaming face, and, twining one of the silky curls over
her finger, said musingly:

"Eugene, she always reminds me of Lilly. Do you see the
resemblance?"

"Not in her features; in size and gay heedlessness of manner she is
like Lilly as I saw her last."

"Yes; Lilly's eyes were blue, and your child's are dark, like your
own; but she never comes up and puts her arms round my neck without
recalling bygone years. I could shut my eyes and fancy my lost
darling was once more mine. Ah! how carefully memory gathers up the
golden links of childhood and weaves the chain that binds our hearts
to the olden time! Sometimes I think I am only dreaming, and shall
wake to a happy reality. If I could have Lilly back, oh, what a
sunshine it would shed over my heart and life! But this may not be;
and I can only love Cornelia instead."

Her long, black lashes were weighed down with unshed tears, and
there was a touching sadness in her low voice. Cornelia stood by her
side, busily engaged in dressing Beulah's hair with some of the
roses and scarlet geranium she had gathered. She noticed the unusual
melancholy written in the quiet face, and said impatiently:

"With all my flowers you won't look gay! It must be this black
dress. Don't wear such ugly, dark things; I wish you wouldn't. I
want to see you look beautiful, like mother."

"Cornelia, go and break that cluster of yellow berries yonder," said
her father; and when she had left them he turned to his companion
and asked:

"Beulah, have you reflected on what I said the last time I saw you?"

"Yes, Eugene."

"With what result?"

"My former decision is only confirmed the more I ponder the
subject."

"You have seen nothing of Reginald, then? He was here, on some legal
business, last week."

"No; he has been in the city several times during the last four
years, but never comes here; and, except that one letter, which I
did not answer, I have heard nothing from him. I doubt whether we
ever meet again."

"You are a strange woman! Such devotion as his would have won any
other being. He is as much attached to you now as the day he first
offered you his hand. Upon my word, your obstinacy provokes me. He
is the noblest man I ever knew--everything that I should suppose a
woman of your nature would admire; and yet, year after year, you
remain apparently as indifferent as ever."

"And it were a miserable return for such unmerited love to marry him
merely from gratitude. I do admire him, but cannot marry him. I told
him so four years ago."

"But why did you not at least answer his letter?"

"Because his acceptance was made the condition of an answer; a
negative one was not expected, and I had no other to give."

"Pardon me, Beulah; but why do you not love him?"

"A strange question truly. My heart is not the tool of my will."

"Beulah, do you intend to spend your life solitary and joyless, cut
off, as you are here, from society, and dependent on books and music
for sympathy? Why will you not marry Reginald and make his home
happy?"

"Eugene, I have told you before that I could not accept him, and
told you why. Let the subject drop; it is an unpleasant one to me. I
am happier here than I could possibly be anywhere else. Think you I
would marry merely for an elegant home and an intellectual
companion? Never! I will live and die here in this little cottage
rather than quit it with such motives. You are mistaken in supposing
that Mr. Lindsay is still attached to me. It has been nearly two
years since he wrote that letter, and from Georgia I hear that the
world believes he is soon to marry a lady residing somewhere near
him. I think it more than probable the report is true, and hope most
sincerely it may be so. Now, Eugene, don't mention the subject
again, will you?"

"It is generally believed that he will be elected to Congress; next
month will decide it. The chances are all in his favor," persisted
Eugene.

"Yes; so I judged from the papers," said she coolly, and then added:
"And one day I hope to see you, or rather hear of you, in Washington
by his side. I believe I shall be gratified; and oh, Eugene, what a
proud moment it will be to me! How I shall rejoice in your merited
eminence."

Her face kindled as she spoke; but the shadows deepened in his
countenance, as he answered moodily:

"Perhaps I may; but fame and position cannot lighten a loaded heart
or kindle the sacred flame of love in a dreary home. When a man
blindly wrecks his happiness on the threshold of life by a fatal
marriage, no after exertion can atone or rectify the one mistake."

"Hush! she will hear you," said Beulah, pointing to the little girl,
who was slowly approaching them.

A bitter smile parted his lips.

"She is my all; yet precious as she is to my sad heart, I would
gladly lay her in her grave to-morrow sooner than see her live to
marry an uncongenial spirit, or know that her radiant face was
clouded with sorrow, like mine. God grant that her father's wretched
lot may warn her of the quicksands which nearly ingulfed him." He
took the child in his arms, as if to shield her from some impending
danger, and said hurriedly:

"Are you ready to go home?"

"Is it so very late?"

"It is time we were going back, I think."

Beulah tied on the hat and cape, which had been thrown aside, and
saw them ride away.

There, in the golden twilight, she mused on the changes time bore on
its swift chariot. The gorgeous dreamings of her girlhood had faded
like the summer clouds above her to the somber hue of reality. From
the hour when her father (a poor artist, toiling over canvas to feed
his children) had, in dying accents, committed the two to God's
care, she only remembered sorrow up to the time that Dr. Hartwell
took her to his home. Her life there was the one bright oasis in her
desert past. Then she left it a woman, and began the long struggle
with poverty and trials over again. In addition, skepticism threw
its icy shadow over her. She had toiled in the cavernous mines of
metaphysics hopelessly; and finally, returning to the holy religion
of Jesus Christ, her weary spirit found rest. Ah, that rest which
only the exhausted wanderer through the burning wastes of
speculation can truly comprehend and appreciate. She had been
ambitious, and labored to obtain distinction as a writer; and this,
under various fictitious signatures, was hers. She still studied and
wrote, but with another aim, now, than mere desire of literary fame;
wrote to warn others of the snares in which she had so long been
entangled, and to point young seekers after truth to the only sure
fountain. She was very lonely, but not unhappy. Georgia and Helen
were both happily married, and she saw them very rarely; but their
parents were still her counselors and friends. At Mrs. Williams'
death they had urged her to remove to their house; but she preferred
remaining at the little cottage, at least until the expiration of
the year. She still kept her place in the schoolroom; not now as
assistant, but as principal in that department; and the increased
salary rendered rigid economy and music lessons no longer necessary.
Her intense love of beauty, whether found in nature or art, was a
constant source of pleasure; books, music, painting, flowers, all
contributed largely to her happiness. The grim puzzles of philosophy
no longer perplexed her mind; sometimes they thrust themselves
before her, threatening as the sphinx of old; but she knew that here
they were insolvable; that at least her reason was no Oedipus, and a
genuine philosophy induced her to put them aside, and, anchoring
her hopes of God and eternity in the religion of Christ, she drew
from the beautiful world in which she lived much pure enjoyment.
Once she had worshiped the universe; now she looked beyond the
wonderful temple whose architecture, from its lowest foundations of
rock to its starry dome of sky, proclaimed the God of revelation;
and, loving its beauty and grandeur, felt that it was but a home for
a season, where the soul could be fitted for yet more perfect
dwelling-places. Her face reflected the change which a calm reliance
on God had wrought in her feelings. The restless, anxious expression
had given place to quiet. The eyes had lost their strained, troubled
look; the brow was unruffled, the face serene. Serene, reader, but
not happy and sparkling as it might have been. All the shadows "were
not yet banished from her heart; there was one spectral form which
thrust itself continually before her and kept her cheek pale and
rendered her lip at times unsteady. She had struggled bravely
against this one remaining sorrow; but, as time rolled on, its power
and influence only increased. Even now, in this quiet hour, when a
holy hush had fallen on all nature, and twilight wrapped its soft,
purple veil around her, this haunting memory came to stir the depths
of her heart. Charon walked slowly up the steps, and, lying down at
her feet, nestled his head against her. Then fancy painted a dreary
picture, which

    "Seemed all dark and red--a tract of sand,
      And someone pacing there alone,
     Who paced forever in a glimmering land,
      Lit with a low, large moon."

It was the thought of a lonely man, wandering without aim or goal in
far-distant deserts; away from home and friends; joyless, hopeless.
One who was dearer to her than all on earth beside; who had left her
in anger, and upon whose loved face she might look no more. For
three years no tidings had come of his wanderings; none knew his
fate; and, perhaps, even then his proud head lay low beneath the
palms of the Orient, or was pillowed on the coral crags of distant
seas. This thought was one she was unable to endure; her features
quivered, her hands grasped each other in a paroxysm of dread
apprehension, and, while a deep groan burst from her lips, she bowed
her face on. the head of his last charge, his parting gift. The
consciousness of his unbelief tortured her. Even in eternity they
might meet no more; and this fear cost her hours of agony, such as
no other trial had ever inflicted. From the moment of her return to
the Bible and to prayer this struggle began, and for three years she
had knelt, morning and evening, and entreated Almighty God to shield
and guide the wanderer; to scatter the mists of unbelief which
shrouded his mind. Constantly her prayers went up, mingled with
tears and sobs, and, as weary months wore on, the petitions grew
more impassioned. Her anxiety increased daily, and finally it became
the one intense, absorbing wish of her heart to see her guardian
again. His gloom, his bitterness were all forgotten; she only
remembered his unceasing care and kindness, his noble generosity,
his brilliant smile, which was bestowed only on her. Pressing her
face against Charon's head, she murmured pleadingly:

"Oh, Father, protect him from suffering and death! Guide him safely
home. Give me my guardian back. Oh, Father, give me my wandering
friend once more!"



CHAPTER XXXVII.


"Fold that coat for me, my dear; there, give it to me; I believe
there is room in this trunk for it."

Mrs. Asbury took one of her husband's coats from Beulah's hand and
carefully packed it away.

"How long will you be absent, do you suppose?"

"Probably not longer than a month. The doctor thinks a few days at
Saratoga will invigorate him. If you had consented to go, we had
intended spending a week at Niagara. I am sorry you will not go,
Beulah; you would enjoy the trip, and, moreover, the change would
benefit you. Why do you so pertinaciously reject that legacy of
Cornelia's? The money has been in my husband's hands for some years
untouched, and Mr. Graham said, not long since, that you might just
as well accept it, for he would never receive a cent of it in
return. The original sum has been considerably augmented by
judicious investments, and would place you above the necessity of
labor, if you would accept it. Your refusal wounds Mr. Graham; he
told me so last week. It was Cornelia's particular request that you
should have that amount, and he is anxious to see you in possession
of it. I told him of your suggestion that he should add this legacy
to the sum already given to the asylum; but he vowed solemnly he
would have nothing to do with it. If you chose to give it to the
asylum, you could do so, of course; the money was yours. He never
would touch a cent of it. Beulah, if you will not think me
officious, I will say, candidly, that I think you ought to accept
it. That is, use it, for the legacy has been left, whether you
employ it or not."

Beulah looked grave and troubled, but made no reply.

Mrs. Asbury finished packing the trunk, locked it, and, turning
toward the door, said:

"I am going upstairs to see about the furniture in that room which
Georgia calls the 'Pitti Gallery.' Come with me, my dear."

She led the way, and Beulah followed, until they reached a large
apartment in the third story, the door of which Mrs. Asbury
unlocked. As they entered Beulah started on seeing the statuary and
paintings with which she was so familiar in former years; and in one
corner of the room stood the melodeon, carefully covered. A quantity
of tissue paper lay on the floor, and Mrs. Asbury began to cover the
paintings by pinning the sheets together. Beulah took off her gloves
and assisted; there was silence for some time; but, on lifting a
piece of drapery, Mrs. Asbury exposed the face of a portrait which
Beulah recognized, from the peculiarity of the frame, as the one
that had hung over the mantel in her guardian's study. Paper and
pins fell from her fingers, and, drawing a deep breath, she gazed
upon the face she had so long desired to see. She traced a slight
resemblance to Antoinette in the faultless features; the countenance
was surpassingly beautiful. It was a young, girlish face, sparkling
with joyousness, bewitching in its wonderful loveliness. The
eloquent eyes were strangely, almost wildly, brilliant, the full
crimson lips possessed that rare outline one sees in old pictures,
and the cheek, tinted like a sea-shell, rested on one delicate,
dimpled hand. Beulah looked, and grew dizzy. This was his wife; this
the portrait he had kept shrouded so long and so carefully. How he
must have worshiped that radiant young bride!

Mrs. Asbury noticed her emotion, and asked, with some surprise:

"Did you never see this before?"

"No; it was always covered, and hung too high for me to lift the
crape." Beulah's eyes were riveted on the canvas. Mrs. Asbury
watched her a moment, and said:

"It is an undetermined question in my mind whether beauty, such as
this, is not a curse. In this instance assuredly it proved so, for
it wrecked the happiness of both husband and wife. My dear child, do
you know your guardian's history?"

"I know nothing of him, save that he is my best friend."

"When I first saw Guy Hartwell he was one of the noblest men I ever
met, commanding universal admiration and esteem. It was before his
marriage. He was remarkably handsome, as you can readily imagine he
must have been, and his manners possessed a singular fascination for
all who came within the circle of his acquaintance. Even now, after
the lapse of ten years, I remember his musical, ringing laugh; a
laugh I have never heard since. His family were aristocratic and
wealthy, and Guy was his mother's idol. She was a haughty, imperious
woman, and her 'boy,' as she fondly termed him, was her pride. His
only sister (Mrs. Chilton, or, rather, Mrs. Lockhart) was his
senior, and he had a younger brother, Harry, who was extremely wild;
ran away from home and spent most of his time at sea. Guy was
naturally of a happy, genial temperament; fond of study; fond of
art, flowers, poetry, everything that was noble and beautiful, that
could minister to highly cultivated tastes. Mr. Chilton was
unfortunate in his speculations; lost his fortune, and died soon
after Pauline's birth, leaving his wife and child dependent on her
mother and brother. May and the old lady often disagreed, and only
Guy could harmonize their discords. During a visit to New Orleans he
accidentally met the original of this portrait; her family were
almost destitute, but he aided them very liberally. She was very
beautiful, and, in an unlucky hour, he determined to marry her. She
was a mere child, and he placed her for a while at a school, where
she enjoyed every educational advantage. He was completely
fascinated; seemed to think only of Creola, and hastened the
marriage. His mother and sister bitterly opposed the match,
ridiculed his humble and portionless bride; but he persisted, and
brought her here, a beautiful, heedless girl. Guy built that house,
and his mother and sister occupied one near him, which was burnt
before you knew anything about them. Of course his wife went
constantly into society, and, before six months elapsed, poor Guy
discovered that he had made a fatal mistake. She did not love him;
had married him merely for the sake of an elegant home, and money to
lavish as her childish whims dictated. Ah, Beulah! it makes my heart
ache to think of the change this discovery wrought in Guy's nature.
He was a proud man, naturally; but now he became repulsive, cold,
and austere. The revolution in his deportment and appearance was
almost incredible. His wife was recklessly imprudent, and launched
into the wildest excesses which society sanctioned. When he
endeavored to restrain her, she rebelled, and, without his
knowledge, carried on a flirtation with one whom she had known
previous to her marriage. I believe she was innocent in her folly,
and merely thoughtlessly fed her vanity with the adulation excited
by her beauty. Poor child! she might have learned discretion, but,
unfortunately, Mrs. Chilton had always detested her, and now,
watching her movements, she discovered Creola's clandestine meetings
with the gentleman whom her husband had forbidden her to recognize
as an acquaintance. Instead of exerting herself to rectify the
difficulties in her brother's home, she apparently exulted in the
possession of facts which allowed her to taunt him with his wife's
imprudence and indifference. He denied the truth of her assertions;
she dared him to watch her conduct, and obtained a note which
enabled him to return home one day at an unusually early hour and
meet the man he had denounced in his own parlor. Guy ordered him out
of the house, and, without addressing his wife, rode back to see his
patients; but that night he learned from her that before he ever met
her an engagement existed between herself and the man he so
detested. He was poor, and her mother had persuaded her to marry Guy
for his fortune. She seemed to grow frantic, cursed the hour of her
marriage, professed sincere attachment to the other, and, I firmly
believe, became insane from that moment. Then and there they parted.
Creola returned to her mother, but died suddenly a few weeks after
leaving her husband. They had been married but a year. I have always
thought her mind diseased, and it was rumored that her mother died
insane. Doubtless Guy's terrible rage drove her to desperation;
though he certainly had cause to upbraid. I have often feared that
he would meet the object of his hatred, and once, and only once
afterward, that man came to the city. Why, I never knew; but my
husband told me that he saw him at a concert here some years ago.
Poor Guy! how he suffered; yet how silently he bore it; how
completely he sheathed his heart of fire in icy vestments. He never
alluded to the affair in the remotest manner; never saw her after
that night. He was sitting in our library, waiting to see my
husband, when he happened to open the letter announcing her death. I
was the only person present, and noticed that a change passed over
his countenance; I spoke to him, but he did not reply; I touched
him, but he took no notice whatever, and sat for at least an hour
without moving a muscle or uttering a word. Finally George came and
spoke to him appealingly. He looked up and smiled. Oh, what a smile!
May I never see such another; it will haunt me while I live! Without
a word he folded the letter, replaced it in the envelope, and left
us. Soon after his mother died, and he went immediately to Europe.
He was absent two years, and came back so stern, so cynical, so
unlike his former self, I scarcely knew him. Mrs. Chilton took
charge of his house from the hour of his separation from Creola; but
they were not congenial. He was vastly her superior, save in
intellect, which none of the Hartwell family ever lacked. My husband
is very much attached to Guy; thinks he has not an equal, yet mourns
over the blight which fell upon him in the very morn of his glorious
manhood. About a year after his return from Europe he took you to
his house as an adopted child. I wondered at it, for I knew how
imbittered his whole soul had become. But the heart must have an
idol; he was desolate and miserable, and took you home to have
something to love and interest him. You never knew him in the prime
of his being, for, though comparatively young in years, he had grown
prematurely old in feeling before you saw him. Poor Guy! may a
merciful and loving God preserve him wherever he may be, and bring
him to a knowledge of that religion which alone can comfort a nature
like his--so noble, so gifted, yet so injured, so imbittered."

She brushed away the tears that stood on her cheeks, and looked
sorrowfully at the portrait of the unfortunate young wife.

Beulah sat with her face partially averted, and her eyes shaded with
her hand; once or twice her lips moved, and a shiver ran over her.
She looked up, and said abruptly:

"Leave the key of this room with me, will you? I should like to come
here occasionally."

"Certainly; come as often as you choose; and here on this bunch is
the key of the melodeon. Take it also; the instrument needs dusting,
I dare say, for it has never been opened since Guy left, nearly five
years ago. There, the clock struck two, and the boat leaves at four;
there, too, is my husband's step. Come, my dear; we must go down.
Take these keys until I return."

She gave them to her, and they descended to the dining room, where
the doctor awaited them.

"Beulah, what are you going to do with yourself next year? You must
not think of living in that cottage alone. Since Mrs. Williams'
death you should abandon the thought of keeping house. It will not
do, child, for you to live there by yourself." So said the doctor a
short time before he bade her adieu.

"I don't know yet what I shall do. I am puzzled about a home."

"You need not be. Come and live in my house, as I begged you to do
long ago. Alice and I will be heartily glad to have you. Child, why
should you hesitate?"

"I prefer a home of my own, if circumstances permitted it. You and
Mrs. Asbury have been very kind in tendering me a home in your
house, and I do most sincerely thank you both for your friendly
interest; but I--"

"Oh, Beulah, I should be so very glad to have you always with me! My
dear child, come."

Mrs. Asbury passed her arm affectionately around the girl's waist.
Beulah looked at her with trembling lips, and said hastily:

"Will you take me as a boarder?"

"I would rather take you as a friend--as a daughter."

"Not a bit of it, Alice. She shall pay the highest possible board.
Don't imagine, Miss Independence, that I expected for a moment to
offer you a home gratis. Pay board? That you shall; always in
advance, and candles, and fires, and the use of my library, and the
benefit of my explanations and conversation charged as 'extras,'"
cried the doctor, shaking his fist at her.

"Then, sir, I engage rooms."

"Will you really come, my child?" asked Mrs. Asbury, kissing the
orphan's pale cheek tenderly.

"Gladly, as a boarder, and very grateful for such a privilege."

"Beulah, on reflection, I think I can possibly take Charon for half-
price; though I must confess to numerous qualms of conscience at the
bare suggestion of receiving such an 'infernal' character into my
household."

"Thank you," said she, and saw them depart for Saratoga, whither
Georgia and Helen had preceded them. Several weeks elapsed without
her receiving any tidings, and then a letter came giving her
information of a severe illness which had attacked the doctor,
immediately after his arrival in New York. He was convalescing
rapidly when his wife wrote, and, in proof thereof, subjoined a
postscript, in his scrawling hand and wonted bantering style. Beulah
laughed over it, refolded the letter, and went into her little
garden to gather a bouquet for one of her pupils who had recently
been quite sick. She wore a white muslin apron over her black dress,
and soon filled it with verbena, roses, and geranium sprigs. Sitting
down on the steps, she began to arrange them, and soon became
absorbed in her occupation. Presently a shadow fell on the step; she
glanced up, and the flowers dropped from her fingers, while an
exclamation of surprise escaped her.

Mr. Lindsay held out his hand.

"After four years of absence, of separation, have you no word of
welcome?"

She gave him both hands, and said eagerly:

"Oh, yes; I am very glad to see you again; very glad that I have an
opportunity of congratulating you on your signal success. I am
heartily glad my friend is soon to enter Congressional halls. Accept
my most sincere congratulations on your election."

A sudden flush rose to his temples, and, clasping her hands tightly,
he exclaimed passionately:

"Oh, Beulah, your congratulations mock me. I come to offer you, once
more, my hand, my heart, my honors, if I have any. I have waited
patiently; no, not patiently, but still I have waited, for some
token of remembrance from you, and could bear my suspense no longer.
Will you share the position which has been accorded me recently?
Will you give me this hand which I desire more intensely than the
united honors of the universe beside? Beulah, has my devoted love
won me your affection? Will you go with me to Washington?"

"I cannot; I cannot!"

"Cannot? Oh, Beulah, I would make you a happy wife, if it cost me my
life!"

"No. I could not be happy as your wife. It is utterly impossible.
Mr. Lindsay, I told you long ago you could never be more than a
friend."

"And have years wrought no change in your heart?"

"Years have strengthened my esteem, my sincere friendship; but more
than this all time cannot accomplish."

"Your heart is tenacious of its idol," he answered moodily.

"It rebels, sir, now, as formerly, at the thought of linking my
destiny with that of one whom I never loved." Beulah spoke rapidly,
her cheeks burned and her eyes sparkled with displeasure.

He looked at her and sighed deeply; then threw down a letter,
saying:

"Ah, Beulah, I understood long ago why you could not love me; but I
hoped years of absence would obliterate the memory that prevented my
winning you. I made unusual exertions to discover some trace of your
wandering guardian; have written constantly to my former banker in
Paris, to find some clew to his whereabouts. Through him I learn
that your friend was last heard of at Canton, and the supposition is
that he is no longer living. I do not wish to pain you, Beulah; but
I would fain show you how frail a hope you cling to. Believe me,
dear Beulah, I am not so selfish as to rejoice at his prolonged
absence. No, no. Love such as mine prizes the happiness of its
object above all other things. Were it in my power I would restore
him to you this moment. I had hoped you would learn to love me; but
I erred in judging your nature. Henceforth I will cast off this
hope, and school myself to regard you as my friend only. I have, at
least, deserved your friendship."

"And it is inalienably yours!" cried she very earnestly.

"In future, when toiling to discharge my duties, I may believe I
have one sincere friend, who will rejoice at my success?"

"Of this you may well rest assured. It seems a poor return, Mr.
Lindsay, for all you have tendered me; but it is the most I can
give, the most an honest heart will allow me to offer. Truly, you
may always claim my friendship and esteem, if it has any worth."

"I prize it far more than your hand unaccompanied by your heart.
Henceforth we will speak of the past no more; only let me be the
friend an orphan may require. You are to live in my uncle's house, I
believe; I am very glad you have decided to do so; this is not a
proper home for you now. How do you contrive to exorcise
loneliness?"

"I do not always succeed very well. My flowers are a great resource;
I don't know how I should live without them. My books, too, serve to
occupy my attention." She was making a great effort to seem
cheerful, but he saw that her smile was forced; and, with an
assurance that he would see her again before he went to Washington,
he shook hands cordially, and left her. She tied her bouquet, and
dispatched it to the sick child, with a few lines of kind
remembrance; then took the letter which Mr. Lindsay had thrown on
the steps, and opened it with trembling fingers.

"MR. R. LINDSAY

"Dear Sir: Yours of the 3d came to hand yesterday. As I wrote you
before, I accidentally learned that Dr. Hartwell had been in Canton;
but since that have heard nothing from him, and have been unable to
trace him further. Letters from Calcutta state that he left that
city, more than a year since, for China. Should I obtain any news of
him, rest assured it shall be immediately transmitted to you.

"Very respectfully,

"R. A. FIELDS."

She crumpled the sheet, and threw it from her; and if ever earnest,
heartspoken prayer availed, her sobbing cry to the God of travelers
insured his safety.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


One day there came a letter postmarked from an inland town where
Beulah had no correspondent. The direction, however, was instantly
recognized, and she broke the seal hurriedly.

"What has become of you, Beulah? and what can have become of my two
letters which were never answered? Concluding you never received
them, I hazard a third attempt to reach you through the medium of
letters. You will readily perceive that we have removed to a distant
section of the State. Ernest was called to take charge of this
parish, and we are delightfully located here, within a few minutes'
walk of the church. Beulah, the storm which darkened over me, in the
first year of my marriage, has swept by, and it is all sunshine,
glorious sunshine, with me. You know my home was very unhappy for a
time. My husband's family caused misunderstandings between us,
influenced him against me, and made me very, very wretched. I could
not tolerate Lucy's presence with any degree of patience, yet she
would remain in our house. How it would have ended only Heaven
knows, had not my husband been suddenly taken very ill.

"It was on Sabbath morning. He was displeased with me because of
some of my disputes with his sister, and scarcely spoke to me before
he went into the pulpit. Lucy and I sat together in the rector's
pew, hating each other cordially; and when Ernest began the morning
service I noticed he looked pale and weary. Before it was concluded
he sank back exhausted, and was borne into the vestry room, covered
with blood. He had a severe hemorrhage from the throat, his
physician said, but Ernest thinks it was from his lungs. I was sure
he would die; and oh, Beulah, what agony I endured, as I sat beside
him and watched his ghastly face! But his illness was 'the blessing
in disguise'; he forgot all our disgraceful bickerings, and was
never satisfied unless I was with him. Lucy grumbled, and sneered,
and looked sour; but I had my husband's heart again, and determined
to keep it. As soon as he was strong enough I told him how wretched
I had been and how sincerely I desired to make him happy, if Lucy
would only not interfere. He saw that our domestic peace was
dependent upon the change, and from that hour his sister ceased
meddling with my affairs. What he said to her I never knew; but soon
after his recovery she returned to her parents, and I was left in
peace.

"I began in sober earnest to be all my husband wished me; read the
books he liked (though it was a terrible bore at first); read to
him; took part in all the societies connected with his church, and,
in short, became quite a demure pastor's wife. Occasionally my old
fondness for fun would break out, to the horror of some of his
antediluvian flock; but Ernest was very good, and bore patiently
with me, and now I am as prim and precise as any old maid of sixty.
At home I do as I like; that is, when Ernest likes it too. I sing,
and play, and romp with the dogs and kittens; but the moment the
door bell rings, lo! a demure matron receives her guests! Ernest's
health is quite restored, and I am as happy as the day is long. You
should see me working in my garden, and sometimes churning before
breakfast, to give Ernest a fresh glass of buttermilk. I would not
change places with an empress, I am so happy. My husband loves me
better than everything else beside, and what more could I desire?

"Do come and see me; we would be so delighted to have you spend some
time in our home. I am such a genuine rustic you would scarcely
recognize me. Just fancy me with an apron on, my sleeves rolled up,
churning as fast as the dasher can fly and singing at the top of my
voice. Mother was perfectly shocked, when she first came to live
with me, and vowed I should not make a 'drudge' of myself. Drudge,
indeed! because I chose to do something with my own hands for my
husband! I told her I would 'drudge,' as she called it, just as long
as Ernest loved such things as I could prepare for him myself; and I
read her those famous remarks of Lady Mary Montagu, in which all
domestic pursuits, even cooking, are dignified as a labor of love;
whereupon Ernest gave me a kiss, and mother declined any further
argumentation on the subject.

"How some of my fashionable city friends would elevate their
fastidious noses at seeing me, with my check aprons, picking
strawberries or arranging curds for tea! Come and see me; do,
Beulah; I am the very happiest woman extant; that is, I would be, if
I could only know something of Uncle Guy. It is almost five years
since he left home, and for a long, long time we have heard nothing
from him. This is the only sorrow I have. Sometimes I fear he must
have died in some distant land, yet will not believe it. I want to
see him very much; my heart aches when I think about him. Dear Uncle
Guy! next to my husband, I believe I love him best. Can't you tell
me something of him? or do you know as little as his relatives?
Ernest says he will walk into our house some day without any
intimation of his coming. Oh, I hope so! I endeavor to believe so!
Do write to me. I often think of you, in your loneliness, and wish
you were as happy as your friend,

"PAULINE."

Beulah laid the letter beside one received the previous day from
Clara, and mused for some moments. They were both happily married,
and she sincerely rejoiced over their fortunate lots; but Clara had
onced loved her guardian; how could she possibly forget him so
entirely? Was love a mere whim of the hour, fostered by fortuitously
favorable circumstances, but chilled and vanquished by absence or
obstacles? Could the heart demolish the idol it had once enshrined,
and set up another image for worship? Was Time the conquering
iconoclast? Why, then, did she suffer more acutely as each year
rolled on? She had little leisure, however, for these reflections;
the Asburys had returned, and the cottage had been rented by a
family who were anxious to take possession immediately. Such
articles of furniture as were no longer needed had been sent to an
auction room, and she sat down in the empty dining room to see the
last load removed. To-day she bade adieu to the cottage, and
commenced boarding once more. Her heart was heavy, but her eyes were
undimmed, and her grave, composed face betokened little of the
sorrow which oppressed her. Here she had spent five years in
peaceful seclusion; here she had toiled and earned reputation as a
writer; and here many hours of happiness had been passed among her
flowers. The place was very dear to her; it was the only spot on the
face of the wide world she had ever felt was her home. Home! if it
consists of but a sanded floor and unplastered walls, what a halo is
shed upon its humble hearth! A palatial mansion, or sequestered
cottage among wild forests, were alike sanctified by the name. Home!
the heart's home! who shall compute its value? But Beulah must
relinquish her retreat, and find refuge in the home of others. Would
this content her? Was she to be always homeless? True, she was to
reside with loved and tried friends, yet she would be a homeless
orphan still, without claims upon one living being. The grave had
closed over the kind matron who had so warmly loved her, and she was
without ties in the world. These thoughts passed through her mind as
she saw the last chair deposited on a furniture cart and borne away.
Charon looked up at her mournfully, as if to ask:

"Are we homeless? Where shall we wander?" She stroked his head, and
went into the flower garden to gather a last bouquet from plants she
had so carefully tended. An early frost had nipped the buds, but the
chrysanthemums were in all their glory--crimson, white, and orange.
She broke some of the beautiful clusters, and, with a long,
lingering look, turned away. The black mourning veil was thrown back
from a pale, calm face: and as she walked on, reflecting upon the
future, which stretched dimly before her, she exclaimed:

"Why should I wish it otherwise? The arms of a merciful God will
shield me, under all circumstances. My life was not given for a mere
holiday. So I but do my duty faithfully, all will be well. Ah,
truly, I can say:"

    "'Let me, then, be up and doing,
       With a heart for any fate,
      Still achieving, still pursuing,
       Learn to labor, and to wait!'"

"Yes, learn to labor and to wait. The heart cries out fiercely for
its recompense; is loath to wait. But I can conquer even this. I
will be patient and hopeful. Duty is its own recompense."

Mrs. Asbury spared no exertion to make the orphan happy in her
house. She treated her with the gentle frankness which characterized
her deportment toward her daughters; and to identify her with her
own family, often requested her to assist in her household plans.
She thoroughly understood and appreciated Beulah's nature, and
perfect confidence existed between them. It was no sooner known that
Beulah was an inmate of the house than many persons, curious to see
one of whom rumor spoke so flatteringly, availed themselves of the
circumstance to make her acquaintance. Almost unconsciously, she
soon found herself the center of a circle of literary people whom
she had often heard of, but had never known previously. Gradually
her reserve melted away, and her fine colloquial powers developed
themselves; but she wearied of the visitors--wearied even of the
themes discussed, and, having passed her life in seclusion, found in
solitude a degree of enjoyment which society could not confer. Helen
had married a planter, and resided at some distance from the city,
but Georgia and her husband remained at home. Thus, imperceptibly,
time wore on. Eugene often came and spent an hour with Beulah; and,
still more frequently, Cornelia was sent to while away an evening
with her merry prattle. Very steadily Eugene advanced in his
profession; the applause of the world cheered him on, and an
enviable reputation was his at last. Grasping ambition lured him,
step by step; and it was evident that he aimed at a seat beside
Reginald Lindsay. Rejoiced at his entire reformation, and proud of
his success, Beulah constantly encouraged his aspirations.
Antoinette was as gay and indifferent as ever, and Eugene divided
his heart between his child and his ambition.

By a system of rigid economy in the disposal of her time, Beulah not
only attended to her school duties, her music, and her books, but
found leisure, after writing her magazine articles, to spend some
time each day with the family under whose roof she resided. Dr.
Asbury's health was rather feeble, and of late his eyes had grown so
dim as to prevent his reading or writing. This misfortune was to a
great extent counterbalanced by his wife's devoted attention, and
often Beulah shared the duties of the library. One bright Sunday
afternoon she walked out to the cemetery, which she visited
frequently. In one corner of a small lot, inclosed by a costly iron
railing, stood a beautiful marble monument, erected by Mr. Grayson
over Lilly's grave. It represented two angels bearing the child up
to its God. Just opposite, in the next lot, was a splendid mausoleum
of the finest white marble, bearing in gilt letters the name
"Cornelia Graham, aged twenty-three." It was in the form of a
temple, with slender fluted columns supporting the portico; and on
the ornate capitals was inscribed in corresponding gilt characters,
"Silentio! silentio!" At the entrance stood two winged forms,
crowned with wreaths of poppies; and a pair of beautiful vases held
withered flowers. Beulah sat on the marble steps. Before her
stretched aisles of tombstones; the sunshine sparkled on their
polished surfaces, and was reflected as from countless mirrors.
Myrtle and laurel trees waved gently in the icy north wind, and
stately, solemn cedars kept guard in every inclosure. All was silent
and still, save those funereal evergreen boughs which stirred softly
as if fearful of disturbing the pale sleepers around them. Human
nature shrinks appalled from death and all that accompanies it; but
in the deep repose, the sacred hush, which reigned over the silent
city, there was for Beulah something inexpressibly soothing. In a
neighboring lot she could see a simple white slab Eugene had erected
over the remains of the friend of their childhood. Her labors ended,
the matron slept near the forms of Lilly and Cornelia. Here winter
rains fell unheeded, and here the balmy breath of summer brought
bright blossoms and luxuriant verdure. Mocking-birds sang cheerfully
in the sentinel cedars, and friends wandered slowly over the shelled
walks, recalling the past. Here there was no gloom to affright the
timid soul; all was serene and inviting. Why should the living
shrink from a resting-place so hallowed and peaceful? And why should
death be invested with fictitious horrors? A procession entered one
of the gates, and wound along the carriage road to a remote corner
of the burying-ground. The slow, measured tread of the horses, the
crush of wheels on the rocky track, and the smothered sobs of the
mourners, all came in subdued tones to Beulah's ears. Then the train
disappeared, and she was again in solitude. Looking up, her eyes
rested on the words above her: "Silentio! silentio!" They were
appropriate, indeed, upon the monument of her who had gone down into
the tomb so hopelessly, so shudderingly. Years had passed since the
only child had been laid here; yet the hour of release was as fresh
in Beulah's memory as though she had seen the convulsed features but
yesterday; and the words repeated that night seemed now to issue
from the marble lips of the statues beside her: "For here we have no
continuing city, but seek one to come." With her cheek on her hand,
the orphan sat pondering the awful mystery which darkened the last
hour of the young sleeper; and, looking back over her own life,
during the season when she "was without God and without hope," she
saw that only unbelief had clothed death with terror. Once she stood
on this same spot, and with trembling horror saw the coffin lowered.
Had death touched her then, she would have shrunk appalled from the
summons; but now it was otherwise.

"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and
whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."

She believed; and, while a beautiful world linked her to life, and
duty called to constant and cheerful labor, death lost its hideous
aspect. With a firm faith in the Gospel of Christ, she felt that
earth with all its loveliness was but a probationary dwelling-place;
and that death was an angel of God, summoning the laborers to their
harvest home. She had often asked what is the aim and end of life?
One set of philosophers told her it was to be happy. Another
exclaimed it was to learn to endure with fortitude all ills. But
neither satisfied her; one promised too much, the other too little,
and only in revelation was an answer found. Yet how few pause to
ponder its significance! With the majority, life is the all: the
springtime, the holiday; and death the hated close of enjoyment.
They forget that

    "Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
      Is our destined end or way;
     But to act that each to-morrow
      Find us further than to-day."

The path of Christianity is neither all sunshine nor all shadow,
checkered certainly, but leading to a final abode of unimaginable
bliss; and, with the Bible to guide her, the orphan walked
fearlessly on, discharging her duties, and looking unto God and his
Christ to aid her. She sat on the steps of the sepulcher, watching
the last rays of the setting sun gild the monumental shafts that
pointed to heaven. Her grave face might have told the scrutinizing
observer of years of grief and struggle; but it also betokened an
earnest soul calmly trusting the wisdom and mercy of the All-Father.
She sighed as she thought of the gifted but unhappy woman who slept
near her, and, rising, walked on to Lilly's tomb. Ten years had
rolled their waves over her since that little form was placed here.
She looked down at the simple epitaph: "He taketh his young lambs
home." The cherub face seemed to beam upon her once more, and the
sweet, birdlike tones of her childish voice still lingered in the
secret cells of memory. She extended her arms, as if to clasp the
form borne up by the angels, and said tremulously:

"Lilly, my sister, my white-robed darling, but a little while and we
shall meet where orphanage is unknown! 'He doeth all things well!'
Ah, little sleeper, I can wait patiently for our reunion."

As she turned her steps homeward a shadowy smile stole over her
features, and the lines about her mouth resumed their wonted
composure.

"Beulah, father has been asking for you," said Georgia, who met her
on the staircase.

"I will go down to him immediately," was the cheerful answer, and,
putting away her bonnet and shawl, she went at once to the library.
The doctor was leaning very far back in his favorite chair, and she
saw at a glance he had fallen asleep.

Mrs. Asbury sat at a table, weighing out some medicine he had
directed sent to a patient. She looked up as Beulah entered, smiled,
and said in an undertone:

"My liege lord is indulging in a nap. Come to the fire, dear; you
look cold."

She left the room with the medicine, and Beulah stood before the
bright wood fire and watched the ruddy light flashing grotesquely
over the pictures on the wall. The gas had not yet been lighted; she
crossed the room, and sat down before the window. A red glow still
lingered in the west, and, one by one, the stars came swiftly out.
She took up a book she had been reading that morning; but it was too
dim to see the letters, and she contented herself with looking out
at the stars, brightening as the night deepened. "So should it be
with faith," thought she, "and yet, as troubles come thick and fast,
we are apt to despair." Mrs. Asbury came back and lighted the gas,
but Beulah was too much absorbed to notice it. The doctor waked, and
began to talk about the severity of the winter further north and the
suffering it produced among the poor. Presently he said:

"What has become of that child Beulah--do you know, Alice?"

"Yes; there she is by the window. You were asleep when she came in."

He looked round and called to her.

"What are you thinking about, Beulah? You look as cold as an
iceberg. Come to the fire. Warm hands and feet will aid your
philosophizing wonderfully."

"I am not philosophizing, sir," she replied, without rising.

"I will wager my elegant new edition of Coleridge against your old
one that you are! Now, out with your cogitations, you incorrigible
dreamer!"

"I have won your Coleridge. I was only thinking of that Talmudish
tradition regarding Sandalphon, the angel of prayer."

"What of him?"

"Why, that he stands at the gate of heaven, listens to the sounds
that ascend from earth, and, gathering all the prayers and
entreaties, as they are wafted from sorrowing humanity, they change
to flowers in his hands, and the perfume is borne into the celestial
city to God. Yesterday I read Longfellow's lines on this legend, and
suppose my looking up at the stars recalled it to my mind. But
Georgia told me you asked for me. Can I do anything for you, sir?
Are there any prescriptions you wish written off?" She came and
stood by his chair.

"No, thank you, child; but I should like to hear more of that book
you were reading to me last night--that is, if it will not weary
you, my child."

"Certainly not--here it is. I was waiting for you to ask me for more
of it. Shall I begin now, or defer it till after tea?"

"Now, if you please."

Mrs. Asbury seated herself on an ottoman at her husband's feet, and
threw her arm up over his knee; and, opening Butler's "Analogy,"
Beulah began to read where she left off the previous day, in the
chapter on "a future life."

With his hand resting on his wife's head, Dr. Asbury listened
attentively. At the conclusion of the chapter, she turned to the
dissertation on "personal identity," so nearly related to it, and
read it slowly and impressively.

"It is remarkably clear and convincing," said the doctor, when she
ceased.

"Yes; his argument that death, instead of being an abnormal event,
is as much a law of our nature as birth (because necessary to future
development), and that, as at maturity, we have perfections of which
we never dreamed in infancy, so death may put us in possession of
new powers, by releasing us from the chrysalis state, is one which
has peculiar significance to my mind. Had Cornelia Graham studied
it, she would never have been tortured by the thought of that
annihilation which she fancied awaited her. From childhood this
question of 'personal identity' has puzzled me; but, it seems to me,
this brief treatise of Butler is quite satisfactory. It should be a
text-book in all educational institutions; should be scattered far
and wide through the land."

Here the solemn tones of the church bells told that the hour of
evening service drew near. The doctor started, and said abruptly:

"Bless me! Alice, are we to have no tea to-night?"

"Yes; the tea bell rang some minutes ago; but Beulah had not quite
finished her chapter, and I would not interrupt."

As they walked on to the dining room he said:

"You two are going to church, I suppose?"

"No; I shall remain with you," answered his wife gently.

"You need not, my dear. I will go with you, if you prefer it."
Beulah did not look up, but she knew that true-hearted wife was
unspeakably happy; and understood why, during tea, she was so quiet,
so unwontedly silent.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


"I wish Hartwell would come home and attend to his business,"
muttered Dr. Asbury, some weeks later; and, as he spoke, he threw
his feet impatiently over the fender of the grate, looking
discontented enough.

"He will come, sir; he will come," answered Beulah, who sat near
him.

"How do you know that so well, child? Why do you suppose he will
come?" asked the doctor, knitting his bushy gray eyebrows.

"Perhaps, because I wish it so very much; and hope and faith are
nearly allied, you know; and perhaps more than this--because I have
prayed so long for his return."

She sat with her hands folded, looking quietly into the glowing
grate. The old man watched her a moment, as the firelight glared
over her grave, composed face, and tears came suddenly into his
eyes.

"When Harry Hartwell died (about eighteen months since) he left his
share of the estate to Guy. It is one of the finest plantations in
the State, and for the last three years the crops have been
remarkably good. The cotton has been sold regularly, and the bulk of
the money is still in the hands of the factor. Yesterday I happened
to pass the old house, and rode in to see how things looked;
positively, child, you would scarcely recognize the place. You know
the Farleys only occupied it a few months; since that time it has
been rented. Just now it is vacant, and such a deserted-looking
tenement I have not seen for many days. As far as I am concerned--"

Here a servant entered to inform the doctor that he was wanted
immediately to see one of his patients. He kicked off his slippers,
and got up, grumbling:

"A plague on Guy's peregrinating proclivities! I am getting too old
to jump up every three seconds, to keep somebody's baby from jerking
itself into a spasm or suffocating with the croup. Hartwell ought to
be here to take all this practice off my hands."

He put on his overcoat and went out.

Beulah sat quite still for some minutes after his departure; then,
glancing at the clock, she started up suddenly.

"Where are you going, my dear?" said Mrs. Asbury, looking up from a
letter she was writing to Helen.

"To walk."

"But Mr. Leonard is coming here this afternoon to see you; he
requested me to tell you so."

"I don't want to see him."

"But, my dear, he has already called several times recently without
seeing you."

"And if he had any penetration he might perceive that the avoidance
was intended. I am tired of his frequent visits and endless
harangues, and he might see it if he chose." She looked rather
impatient.

Mrs. Asbury had sealed her letter, and, approaching the rug where
Beulah stood, she laid her soft hand on her shoulder, and said
gently:

"My dear child, do not think me officious, or prompted by mere idle
curiosity, if I ask, Do you intend to reject him?"

"Why, ma'am, I have rejected him once, and still he forces his
society upon me. As to staying at home to see him, I won't do it."

Mrs. Asbury seemed surprised, and said smilingly:

"Upon my word, Beulah, you seem fastidious, indeed. What possible
objection could you find to Hugh Leonard? Why, my dear, he is the
best match in the city."

"I would about as soon think of marrying the doctor's armchair,
there."

Beulah went to her own room and put on her bonnet and cloak. Charon
very rarely attended her in her rambles; he had grown old, and was
easily fatigued; but this afternoon she called to him, and they set
out. It was a mild, sunny evening for winter, and she took the
street leading to her guardian's old residence. A quick walk soon
brought her into the suburbs, and ere long she stood before the
entrance. The great central gate was chained, but the little side
gate was completely broken from its hinges, and lay on the ground.
Alas! this was but the beginning. As she entered she saw, with
dismay, that the yard was full of stray cattle. Cows, sheep, goats
browsed about undisturbed among the shrubbery which her guardian had
tended so carefully. She had not been here since he sold it; but
even Charon saw that something was strangely amiss. He bounded off,
and soon cleared the inclosure of the herd which had become
accustomed to grazing here. Beulah walked slowly up the avenue; the
aged cedars whispered hoarsely above her as she passed, and the
towering poplars, whose ceaseless silvery rustle had an
indescribable charm for her in summers past, now tossed their bare
boughs toward her in mute complaining of the desolation which
surrounded them. The reckless indifference of tenants has deservedly
grown into a proverb, and here Beulah beheld an exemplification of
its truth. Of all the choice shrubbery which it had been the labor
of years to collect and foster; not a particle remained. Hoses,
creepers, bulbs--all were destroyed, and only the trees and hedges
were spared. The very outline of the beds was effaced in many
places, and, walking round the paved circle in front of the door,
she paused abruptly at the desolation which greeted her. Here was
the marble basin of the fountain half filled with rubbish, as though
it had been converted into a receptacle for trash, and over the
whole front of the house the dark glossy leaves of the creeping ivy
clung in thick masses. She looked around on all sides, but only ruin
and neglect confronted her. She remembered the last time she came
here, and recalled the beautiful Sunday morning when she saw her
guardian standing by the fountain, feeding his pigeons. Ah, how
sadly changed! She burst into tears, and sat down on the steps.
Charon ran about the yard for some time; then came back, looked up
at the somber house, howled, and lay down at her feet. Where was the
old master? Wandering among Eastern pagodas, while his home became a
retreat for owls.

"He has forgotten us, Charon! He has forgotten his two best friends-
-you and I--who love him so well! Oh, Charon, he has forgotten us!"
cried she, almost despairingly. Charon gave a melancholy groan of
assent, and nestled closer to her. Five years had gone since he left
his native land, and, for once, her faith was faint and wavering.
But, after some moments, she looked up at the calm sky arching above
her, and, wiping away her tears, added resignedly:

"But he will come! God will bring him home when he sees fit! I can
wait! I can wait!"

Charon's great, gleaming black eyes met hers wistfully; he seemed
dubious of his master's return. Beulah rose, and he obeyed the
signal.

"Come, Charon, it is getting late; but we will come back some day,
and live here."

It was dusk when she entered the library and found Mrs. Asbury
discussing the political questions of the day with her husband. She
had just finished reading aloud one of Reginald's Congressional
speeches, and advocated it warmly, while the doctor reprobated some
portion of his course.

"You have had a long walk," said Mrs. Asbury, looking up as the
orphan entered.

"And look, for the universe, as if you had been ghost-seeing," cried
the doctor, wiping his spectacles.

"I would rather meet an army of ghosts than see what I have seen!"
answered Beulah.

"Good Heavens! In the name of wonder, what have you seen, child? A
rattlesnake or a screech-owl?"

He put his broad palms on his knees, and looked mockingly curious
and startled.

"I have been out to see the old place, sir; found the gate broken
down, the front yard full of cows, and everything going to
destruction, except the trees and hedges. Sir, it makes me feel very
sad. I can't bear to have things go on this way any longer. It must
be rectified."

"Bless my soul, that is easier said than done! The place is a
perfect owl-roost, there is no denying that; but it is no business
of ours. If Farley or his agent suffers the property to go to ruin,
it is his loss."

"But I love the place. I want to save it. Won't you buy it, Dr.
Asbury?"

"Won't I buy it? Why, what on earth do you suppose I should do with
it? I don't want to live in it; and, as for any more investments in
real estate, why, just excuse me, if you please! Insurance and
repairs eat up all the profits, and I am plagued to death with
petitions in the bargain."

"Then I must buy it myself!" said Beulah resolutely.

"In the name of common sense, tell me what you will do with it?"

"I don't know yet; keep it, I suppose, until he comes home again.
How much do you suppose the Farleys ask for it?"

"I really cannot conjecture. But, child, you must not think of this.
I will see the agent about it, and perhaps I may purchase it, to
oblige you. I will not hear of your buying it. Guy certainly cannot
contemplate heathenating much longer. There is that eternal door-
bell again! Somebody that believes I am constructed of wire and
gutta-percha, I dare say."

He leaned back, and watched the door very uneasily. A servant looked
in.

"Mr. Leonard, to see Miss Beulah."

"Thank Heaven, it is nobody to see me!" The doctor settled himself
comfortably, and laughed at the perturbed expression of Beulah's
countenance.

"Ask him to excuse me this evening," said she, without rising.

"Nay, my dear; he was here this afternoon, and you had gone to walk.
It would be rude not to see him. Go into the parlor; do, my dear;
perhaps he will not detain you long," remonstrated Mrs. Asbury.

Beulah said nothing; she set her lips firmly, rose, and went to the
parlor.

"I will wager my head he won't stay fifteen minutes, after he gets a
glimpse of her face. Hugh ought to have sense enough to see that she
does not fancy him," said the doctor, laughing.

"I should very much like to see the man she would fancy," answered
his wife, knitting away busily on a purse for some sewing society.

"Oh, Alice! do you wonder she does not like Hugh Leonard? He is a
'catch,' as far as position, and money, and a certain sort of
talent, and is very clever, and upright, I know; but he does not
suit Beulah. If she would not marry Reginald, of course she won't
marry Hugh."

Jangle! went the door bell once more, and this time the doctor was
forced to leave his chair and slippers.

The winter had been very gay, and, without doubt, the belle of the
season was Claudia Grayson. She had grown up a brilliant, imperious
beauty. Petted most injudiciously by Mr. and Mrs. Grayson, the best
elements of her character, instead of being fostered and developed,
were smothered beneath vanity and arrogance; and soon selfishness
became the dominant characteristic. To those whom she considered her
inferiors she was supercilious and overbearing; while, even in her
adopted home, she tyrannized over both servants and parents.
Flattered and sought after in society, she was never happy unless
the center of a gay circle. Ere long she discovered the
heartlessness of her admirers; learned the malice and envy of the
very people she visited most intimately; and once acquainted with
their natures and habits, she found her greatest amusement in
ridiculing those who did precisely the same thing the moment she
left them. Beulah had never been able to conquer her feelings
sufficiently to enter Mrs. Grayson's house; but she had met Claudia
several times. The latter, when accompanied by any of her
fashionable acquaintances, always shrank from recognizing her; and
finally, thinking any allusion to former years, and the asylum, a
personal insult, she passed her without even a bow. The first time
this occurred Beulah was deeply wounded; she had loved Claudia very
warmly, and her superciliousness was hard to bear. But the slight
was repeated several times, and she learned to pity her weakness
most sincerely.

"Ah!" thought she, "how much better it was that Lilly should die
than live to grow up a heartless flirt like Claudy! Much better,
little sister! Much better!"

It was the morning after her walk to the old home of her guardian
that Dr. Asbury threw down the paper on the breakfast table with an
exclamation of horror.

"What is the matter, George?" cried his wife, while Beulah grew
deadly pale, and clutched the paper; her mind, like "Hinda's,"

  "Still singling ONE from all mankind."

"Matter! Why, poor Grayson has committed suicide--shot himself last
night, poor wretch! He has been speculating too freely and lost
every cent; and, worse than that, used money to do it that was not
his. He made desperate throws and lost all; and the end of it was
that, when his operations were discovered, he shot himself, leaving
his family utterly destitute. I heard yesterday that they would not
have a cent; but never dreamed of his being so weak as to kill
himself. Miserable mistake!"

"What will become of Mrs. Grayson and Claudia?" asked Beulah
sorrowfully.

"I don't know, really. Mrs. Grayson has a brother living somewhere
up the country; I suppose he will offer them a home, such as he has.
I pity her. She is a weak creature,--weak, mind and body,--and this
reverse will come very near killing her."

For some days nothing was discussed but the "Grayson tragedy." It
was well the unhappy man could not listen to the fierce maledictions
of disappointed creditors and the slanders which were now heaped
upon his name. Whatever his motives might have been, the world
called his offenses by the darkest names, and angry creditors vowed
every knife, fork, and spoon should come under the hammer. The
elegant house was sold--the furniture with it; and Mrs. Grayson and
Claudia removed temporarily to a boarding house. Not one of their
fashionable intimates approached them--no, not one. When Claudia
went one day to her mantuamaker to have her mourning fitted, she met
a couple of ladies who had formerly been constant visitors at the
house and regular attendants at her parties. Unsuspectingly she
hastened to meet them, but, to her astonishment, instead of greeting
her in their usual fawning manner, they received her with a very
cold bow, just touched the tips of her fingers, and, gathering up
their robes, swept majestically from the room. Rage and
mortification forced the tears into her eyes.

Mrs. Asbury had never admired Mrs. Grayson's character; she visited
her formally about twice a year; but now, in this misfortune, she
alone called to see her. When Claudia returned from the
mantuamaker's she found Mrs. Asbury with her mother, and received
from her hand a kind, friendly note from the girl she had so grossly
insulted. Beulah was no flatterer; she wrote candidly and plainly;
said she would have called at once had she supposed her company
would be acceptable. She would gladly come and see Claudia whenever
she desired to see her, and hoped that the memory of other years
would teach her the sincerity of her friendship. Claudia wept
bitterly as she read it, and vainly regretted the superciliousness
which had alienated one she knew to be noble and trustworthy. She
was naturally an impulsive creature, and, without a moment's
hesitation, dashed off an answer, all blurred with tears, begging
Beulah to overlook her "foolishness" and come to see her.

Accordingly, after school, Beulah went to the house where they were
boarding. Claudia met her rather awkwardly, but Beulah kissed her as
if nothing had ever occurred to mar their intercourse; and, after
some desultory conversation, asked her what they expected to do.

"Heaven only knows! starve, I suppose." She spoke gloomily, and
folded her soft white hands over each other, as if the idea of work
was something altogether foreign to her mind.

"But, Claudia, I reckon you hardly expect to starve," answered
Beulah, who could not forbear smiling.

"Dear knows what is to become of us--I am sure I don't! Mamma has a
brother living in some out-of-the-way place up the country. But he
does not like me--thinks some of his own children ought to have been
adopted in my place. Heaven knows I have made nothing by the
operation but a great disappointment; he need not be uneasy about
the amount I am to get. But you see they don't want me, having an
old spite at me, and mamma dislikes to ask them to take me; besides,
I would almost as soon be buried at once as go to that farm, or
plantation, or whatever it is. They have written to mamma to come,
and she does not know what to do."

"You are a good musician, are you not?"

"No, not particularly. I never could endure to practice."

"Don't you draw and paint finely? I have heard that you did."

"Yes; but what good will it do me now, I should like to know?" She
twirled her little plump, jeweled fingers indolently.

"It might do you a great deal of good, if you chose. You might
support yourself by giving lessons," said Beulah decisively.

She drew up her shoulders, frowned, and pouted without making any
answer.

"Claudy, you do not wish to be dependent on a man who dislikes you?"

"Not if I can help myself!"

"And you certainly do not wish to be the means of preventing Mrs.
Grayson from having a comfortable home with her brother?"

Claudia burst into tears. She did not love her mother, did not even
respect her, she was so very weak and childish; yet the young orphan
felt very desolate, and knew not what to do. Beulah took her hand,
and said kindly:

"If you are willing to help yourself, dear Claudy, I will gladly do
all I can to assist you. I think I can secure you a situation as
teacher of drawing, and, until you can make something at it, I will
pay your board; and you shall stay with me, if you like. You can
think about it, and let me know as soon as you decide." Claudia
thanked her cordially, and, returning home, Beulah immediately
imparted the plan to her friends. They thought it would scarcely
succeed, Claudia had been so petted and spoiled. Beulah sat gazing
into the fire for a while; then, looking at the doctor, said
abruptly:

"There is that Graham money, sir, doing nobody any good."

"That is just what I have been telling you for the last six years. I
have invested it carefully, until it has almost doubled itself."

"It would make them very comfortable," continued she thoughtfully.

"Make them very comfortable!" repeated the doctor, throwing his
cigar into the grate, and turning suddenly toward her.

"Yes--Claudia and Mrs. Grayson."

"Beulah Benton! are you going insane, I should like to know? Here
you are, working hard every day of your life, and do you suppose I
shall suffer you to give that legacy (nearly nine thousand dollars!)
to support two broken-down fashionables in idleness? Who ever heard
of such a piece of business since the world began? I will not
consent to it! I tell you now, the money shall not leave my hands
for any such purpose."

"I don't want it myself. I never shall touch a dollar of it for my
own use," said she resolutely.

"All very fine now. But wait till you get superannuated, or such a
cripple with rheumatism that you can't hobble to that schoolhouse,
which you seem to love better than your own soul. Wait till then, I
say, and see whether some of this money will not be very
acceptable."

"That time will never come, sir; never!" answered Beulah, laughing.

"Beulah Benton, you are a simpleton!" said he, looking
affectionately at her from beneath his shaggy brows.

"I want that money, sir."

"You shall not have one cent of it. The idea of your playing Lady
Bountiful to the Graysons! Pshaw! not a picayune shall you have."

"Oh, sir, it would make me so very happy to aid them. You cannot
conceive how much pleasure it would afford me."

"Look here, child; all that sort of angelic disinterestedness sounds
very well done up in a novel, but the reality is quite another
matter. Mrs. Grayson treated you like a brute; and it is not to be
expected that you will have any extraordinary degree of affection
for her. Human nature is spiteful and unforgiving; and as for your
piling coals of fire on her head to the amount of nine thousand
dollars, that is being entirely too magnanimous!"

"I want to make Mrs. Grayson amends, sir. Once, when I was maddened
by sorrow and pain, I said something which I always repented
bitterly." As Beulah spoke, a cloud swept across her face.

"What was it, child? what did you say?"

"I cursed her! besought God to punish her severely for her
unkindness to me. I hardly knew what I was saying; but even then it
shocked me, and I prayed God to forgive my passion. I shudder when I
remember it. I have forgiven her heartlessness long ago; and now,
sir, I want you to give me that money. If it is mine at all, it is
mine to employ as I choose."

"Cornelia did not leave the legacy to the Graysons."

"Were she living, she would commend the use I am about to make of
it. Will you give me five thousand dollars of it?"

"Oh, Beulah, you are a queer compound! a strange being!"

"Will you give me five thousand dollars of that money tomorrow?"
persisted Beulah, looking steadily at him.

"Yes, child; if you will have it so." His voice trembled, and he
looked at the orphan with moist eyes.

Mrs. Asbury had taken no part in the conversation, but her earnest
face attested her interest. Passing her arm around Beulah's waist,
she hastily kissed her brow, and only said:

"God bless you, my dear, noble Beulah!"

"I do not see that I am at all magnanimous in giving away other
people's money. If I had earned it by hard labor, and then given it
to Claudy, there would have been some more show of generosity. Here
come Georgia and her husband; you do not need me to read this
evening, and I have work to do." She extricated herself from Mrs.
Asbury's clasping arm and retired to her own room. The following day
Claudia came to say that, as she knew not what else to do, she would
gladly accept the position mentioned as teacher of drawing and
painting. Mrs. Grayson's brother had come to take her home, but she
was unwilling to be separated from Claudia. Beulah no longer
hesitated, and the sum of five thousand dollars seemed to poor
Claudia a fortune indeed. She could not understand how the girl whom
she and her mother had insulted could possibly have the means of
making them so comparatively comfortable. Beulah briefly explained
the circumstances which had enabled her to assist them. The bulk of
the money remained in Dr. Asbury's hands, and Claudia was to apply
to him whenever she needed it. She and her mamma found a cheaper
boarding house, and Claudia's duties began at once. Mrs. Grayson was
overwhelmed with shame when the particulars were made known to her,
and tears of bitter mortification could not obliterate the memory of
the hour when she cruelly denied the prayer of the poor orphan to
whom she now owed the shelter above her head. Beulah did not see her
for many weeks subsequent; she knew how painful such a meeting would
be to the humbled woman, and, while she constantly cheered and
encouraged Claudia in her work, she studiously avoided Mrs.
Grayson's presence.

Thus the winter passed; and once more the glories of a Southern
spring were scattered over the land. To the Asburys Beulah was
warmly attached, and her residence with them was as pleasant as any
home could possibly have been which was not her own. They were all
that friends could be to an orphan; still, she regretted her little
cottage, and missed the home-feeling she had prized so highly. True,
she had constant access to the greenhouse, and was rarely without
her bouquet of choice flowers; but these could not compensate her
for the loss of her own little garden. She struggled bravely with
discontent; tried to look only on the sunshine in her path and to be
always cheerful. In this she partially succeeded. No matter how
lonely and sad she felt, she hid it carefully, and the evenings in
the library were never marred by words of repining or looks of
sorrow. To the close observer there were traces of grief in her
countenance; and sometimes when she sat sewing while Mrs. Asbury
read aloud, it was easy to see that her thoughts had wandered far
from that little room. Time had changed her singularly since the old
asylum days. She was now a finely formed, remarkably graceful woman,
with a complexion of dazzling transparency. She was always pale, but
the blue veins might be traced anywhere on her brow and temples; and
the dark, gray eyes, with their long, jetty, curling lashes,
possessed an indescribable charm, even for strangers. She had been
an ugly child, but certainly she was a noble-looking, if not
handsome, woman. To all but the family with whom she resided she was
rather reserved; and while the world admired and eulogized her
talents as a writer, she felt that, except Eugene, she had no
friends beyond the threshold of the house she lived in. As weeks and
months elapsed, and no news of her wandering guardian came, her hope
began to pale. For weary years it had burned brightly; but constant
disappointment was pressing heavily on her heart and crushing out
the holy spark. The heartstrings will bear rude shocks and sudden
rough handling, but the gradual tightening, the unremitted tension
of long, tediously rolling years, will in time accomplish what
fierce assaults cannot. Continually she prayed for his return; but,
despite her efforts, her faith grew fainter as each month crept by
and her smile became more constrained and joyless. She never spoke
of her anxiety, never alluded to him; but pressed her hands over her
aching heart and did her work silently--nay, cheerfully.



CHAPTER XL.


The day was dull, misty, and gusty. All the morning there had been a
driving southeasterly rain; but toward noon there was a lull. The
afternoon was heavy and threatening, while armies of dense clouds
drifted before the wind. Dr. Asbury had not yet returned from his
round of evening visits; Mrs. Asbury had gone to the asylum to see a
sick child, and Georgia was dining with her husband's mother. Beulah
came home from school more than usually fatigued; one of the
assistant teachers was indisposed, and she had done double work to
relieve her. She sat before her desk, writing industriously on an
article she had promised to complete before the end of the week. Her
head ached; the lines grew dim, and she laid aside her manuscript
and leaned her face on her palms. The beautiful lashes lay against
her brow, for the eyes were raised to the portrait above her desk,
and she gazed up at the faultless features with an expression of sad
hopelessness. Years had not filled the void in her heart with other
treasures. At this hour it ached with its own desolation, and,
extending her arms imploringly toward the picture, she exclaimed
sorrowfully:

"O my God, how long must I wait? Oh, how long!"

She opened the desk, and, taking out a key, left her room and slowly
ascended to the third story. Charon crept up the steps after her.
She unlocked the apartment which Mrs. Asbury had given into her
charge some time before, and, raising one of the windows, looped
back the heavy blue curtains which gave a somber hue to all within.
From this elevated position she could see the stormy, sullen waters
of the bay breaking against the wharves, and hear their hoarse
muttering as they rocked themselves to rest after the scourging of
the tempest. Gray clouds hung low, and scudded northward: everything
looked dull and gloomy. She turned from the window and glanced
around the room. It was at all times a painful pleasure to come
here, and now, particularly, the interior impressed her sadly. Here
were the paintings and statues she had long been so familiar with,
and here, too, the melodeon which at rare intervals she opened. The
house was very quiet; not a sound came up from below; she raised the
lid of the instrument, and played a plaintive prelude. Echoes seven
or eight years old suddenly fell on her ears; she had not heard one
note of this air since she left Dr. Hartwell's roof. It was a
favorite song of his; a German hymn he had taught her, and now after
seven years she sang it. It was a melancholy air, and, as her
trembling voice rolled through the house, she seemed to live the old
days over again. But the words died away on her lips; she had
overestimated her strength; she could not sing it. The marble images
around her, like ghosts of the past, looked mutely down at her
grief. She could not weep; her eyes were dry, and there was an
intolerable weight on her heart. Just before her stood the Niobe,
rigid and woeful; she put her hands over her eyes, and drooped her
face on the melodeon. Gloom and despair crouched at her side, their
gaunt hands tugging at the anchor of hope. The wind rose and howled
round the corners of the house; how fierce it might be on trackless
seas, driving lonely barks down to ruin and strewing the main with
ghastly upturned faces! She shuddered and groaned. It was a dark
hour of trial, and she struggled desperately with the phantoms that
clustered about her. Then there came other sounds: Charon's shrill,
frantic bark and whine of delight. For years she had not heard that
peculiar bark, and started up in wonder. On the threshold stood a
tall form, with a straw hat drawn down over the features; but
Charon's paws were on the shoulders and his whine of delight ceased
not. He fell down at his master's feet and caressed them. Beulah
looked an instant, and sprang into the doorway, holding out her
arms, with a wild, joyful cry.

"Come at last! Oh, thank God! Come at last!" Her face was radiant,
her eyes burned, her glowing lips parted.

Leaning against the door, with his arms crossed over his broad
chest, Dr. Hartwell stood, silently regarding her. She came close to
him, and her extended arms trembled; still he did not move, did not
speak.

"Oh, I knew you would come; and, thank God, now you are here. Come
home at last!"

She looked up at him so eagerly; but he said nothing. She stood an
instant irresolute, then threw her arms around his neck and laid her
head on his bosom, clinging closely to him. He did not return the
embrace, but looked down at the beaming face and sighed; then he put
his hand softly on her head, and smoothed the rippling hair. A
brilliant smile broke over her features, as she felt the remembered
touch of his fingers on her forehead, and she repeated in the low
tones of deep gladness:

"I knew you would come; oh, sir, I knew you would come back to me!"

"How did you know it, child?" he said, for the first time.

Her heart leaped wildly at the sound of the loved voice she had so
longed to hear, and she answered tremblingly:

"Because for weary years I have prayed for your return. Oh, only God
knows how fervently I prayed! and he has heard me."

She felt his strong frame quiver; he folded his arms about her,
clasped her to his heart with a force that almost suffocated her,
and, bending his head, kissed her passionately. Suddenly his arms
relaxed their clasp; holding her off, he looked at her keenly, and
said:

"Beulah Benton, do you belong to the tyrant Ambition, or do you
belong to that tyrant Guy Hartwell? Quick, child; decide!"

"I have decided," said she. Her cheeks burned; her lashes drooped.

"Well?"

"Well, if I am to have a tyrant, I believe I prefer belonging to
you?"

He frowned. She smiled and looked up at him.

"Beulah, I don't want a grateful wife. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir."

Just then his eyes rested on the portrait of Creola, which hung
opposite. He drew back a step, and she saw the blood leave his lips,
as he gazed upon it. Lifting his hand, he said sternly:

"Ah, what pale specters that face calls up from the grim, gray ruins
of memory! Doubtless you know my miserable history. I married her,
thinking I had won her love. She soon undeceived me. We separated. I
once asked you to be my wife, and you told me you would rather die.
Child, years have not dealt lightly with me since then. I am no
longer a young man. Look here!" He threw off his hat, and, passing
his fingers through his curling hair, she saw, here and there,
streaks of silver. He watched her as she noted it. She saw, too, how
haggard he looked, now that the light fell full on his pale face.
The splendid, dark eyes were unaltered, and, as they looked down
into hers, tears gathered on her lashes, her lips trembled, and,
throwing her arms again round his neck, she laid her face on his
shoulder.

"Beulah, do you cling to me because you love me? or because you pity
me? or because you are grateful to me for past love and kindness?
Answer me, Beulah."

"Because you are my all."

"How long have I been your all?"

"Oh, longer than I knew myself!" was the evasive reply.

He tried to look at her, but she pressed her face close to his
shoulder and would not suffer it.

"Beulah!"

"Sir."

"Oh, don't 'sir' me, child! I want to know the truth, and you will
not satisfy me."

"I have told you the truth."

"Have you learned that fame is an icy shadow? that gratified
ambition cannot make you happy? Do you love me?"

"Yes."

"Better than teaching school and writing learned articles?"

"Rather better, I believe, sir."

"Beulah!"

"Well, sir."

"You have changed in many things since we parted, nearly six years
ago!"

"Yes; I thank God, I am changed. My infidelity was a source of many
sorrows; but the clouds have passed from my mind; I have found the
truth in Holy Writ." Now she raised her head, and looked at him very
earnestly.

"Child, does your faith make you happy?"

"Yes; the universe could not purchase it," she answered solemnly.

There was a brief silence. He put both hands on her shoulders, and,
stooping down, kissed her brow.

"And you prayed for me, Beulah?"

"Yes; evening and morning. Prayed that you might be shielded from
all dangers and brought safely home. And there was one other thing
which I prayed for not less fervently than for your return: that God
would melt your hard, bitter heart, and give you a knowledge of the
truth of the Christian religion. Oh, sir, I thought sometimes that
possibly you might die in a far-off land, and then I should see you
no more, in time or eternity! and oh, the thought nearly drove me
wild! My guardian, my all, let me not have prayed in vain." She
clasped his hand in hers, and looked up pleadingly into the loved
face; and, for the first time in her life, she saw tears glistening
in the burning eyes. He said nothing, however; took her face in his
hands, and scanned it earnestly, as if reading all that had passed
during his long absence. Presently he asked:

"So you would not marry Lindsay and go to Congress. Why not?"

"Who told you anything about him?"

"No matter. Why did not you marry him?"

"Because I did not love him."

"He is a noble-hearted, generous man."

"Yes, very; I do not know his superior."

"What!"

"I mean what I say," said she firmly.

He smiled, one of his genial, irresistible smiles; and she smiled
also, despite herself. "Give me your hand, Beulah?"

She did so very quietly.

"There--is it mine?"

"Yes, sir; if you want it."

"And may I claim it as soon as I choose?"

"Yes, sir."

She had never seen him look as he did then. His face kindled, as if
in a broad flash of light; the eyes dazzled her, and she turned her
face away, as he drew her once more to his bosom, and exclaimed:

"At last, then, after years of sorrow, and pain, and bitterness, I
shall be happy in my own home; shall have a wife, a companion, who
loves me for myself alone. Ah, Beulah, my idol; I will make you
happy!"

The rain fell heavily, and it grew dark, for the night came rapidly
down. There was a furious ringing of the library bell; the doctor
had come home, and, as usual, wanted half a dozen things at once.

"Have you seen Dr. Asbury?"

"No. I came directly to the house; saw no one as I entered; and,
hearing the melodeon, followed the sound."

"What a joyful surprise it will be to him!" said Beulah, closing the
window and locking the melodeon. She led the way down the steps,
followed by her guardian and Charon. "Suppose you wait a while in
the music room? It adjoins the library, and you can see and hear
without being seen." suggested she, with her hand on the bolt of the
door. He assented, and stood near the threshold which connected the
rooms, while Beulah went into the library. The gas burned brightly,
and the doctor sat leaning far back in his armchair, with his feet
on an ottoman. His wife stood near him, stroking the gray hair from
his furrowed brow.

"Alice, I wish, dear, you would get me an iced lemonade, will you?"

"Let me make it for you," said Beulah, coming forward.

"Not you! At your peril, you touch it. You are overfond of the sour,
miss. Alice knows exactly how to suit me."

"So you have turned homeopathist? take acids to--"

"None of your observations, if you please. Just be good enough to
open the shutters, will you? It is as hot in this room as if the
equator ran between my feet and the wall. Charming weather, eh? And
still more charming prospect, that I shall have to go out into it
again before bedtime. One of my delectable patients has taken it
into his head to treat his wife and children to a rare show, in the
shape of a fit of mania-a-potu; and, ten to one, I shall have to
play spectator all night." He yawned as he spoke.

"You have an arduous time indeed," began Beulah; but he hastily put
in:

"Oh, of all poor devils, we pill-box gentry do have the hardest
times! I am sick of patients, sick of physic, sick of the very sound
of my own name."

"If my guardian were only here to relieve--"

"Confound your guardian! Don't mention him in my presence. He is a
simpleton. He is what the 'Ettrick Shepherd' calls a 'Sumph.' You
have no guardian, I can tell you that. Before this he has gone
through all the transmigrations of 'Indur,' and the final
metempsychosis, gave him to the world a Celestial. Yes, child; a
Celestial. I fancy him at this instant, with two long plaits of hair
trailing behind him, as, with all the sublime complacency of
Celestials, he stalks majestically along, picking tea leaves.
Confound your guardian. Mention his name to me again, at the peril
of having your board raised."

"George, what is the matter with you?" asked his wife, smiling as
she handed him the lemonade he had desired.

"This prating young woman is, as usual, trying to discourse of--
Alice, this is just right. Thank you, my dear." He drained the glass
and handed it back. Beulah stood so that the light shone full on her
face. He looked at her a moment, and exclaimed:

"Come here, child. What ails you? Why, bless my soul, Beulah, what
is the matter? I never saw the blood in your face before; and your
great, solemn eyes seem to be dancing a jig. What ails you, child?"
He grasped her hands eagerly.

"Nothing ails me; I am well--"

"I know better! Has Charon gone mad and bit you? Oho! by all the
dead gods of Greece, Guy has come home. Where is he? Where is he?"

He sprang up, nearly knocking his wife down, and looked around the
room. Dr. Hartwell emerged from the music room and advanced to meet
him.

"Oh, Guy! You heathen! you Philistine! you prodigal!"

He bounded over a chair and locked his arms round the tall form,
while his gray head dropped on his friend's shoulder. Beulah stole
out quickly, and, in the solitude of her own room, fell on her knees
and returned thanks to the God who hears and answers prayer.



CHAPTER XLI.


It was a sparkling August morning--one of those rare days when all
nature seems jubilant. The waters of the bay glittered like a sheet
of molten silver; the soft Southern breeze sang through the
treetops, and the cloudless sky wore that deep shade of pure blue
which is nowhere so beautiful as in our sunny South. Clad in a dress
of spotless white, with her luxuriant hair braided and twined with
white flowers, Beulah stood beside her window, looking out into the
street below. Her hands were clasped tightly over her heart, and on
one slender finger blazed a costly diamond, the seal of her
betrothal. She was very pale; now and then her lips quivered, and
her lashes were wet with tears. Yet this was her marriage day. She
had just risen from her knees, and her countenance told of a
troubled heart. She loved her guardian above everything else; knew
that, separated from him, life would be a dreary blank to her; yet,
much as she loved him, she could not divest herself of a species of
fear, of dread. The thought of being his wife filled her with vague
apprehension. He had hastened the marriage; the old place had been
thoroughly repaired and refurnished, and this morning she would go
home a wife. She clasped her hands over her eyes; the future looked
fearful. She knew the passionate, exacting nature of the man with
whose destiny she was about to link her own, and she shrank back, as
the image of Creola rose before her. The door opened, and Mrs.
Asbury entered, accompanied by Dr. Hartwell. The orphan looked up,
and leaned heavily against the window. Mrs. Asbury broke the
silence.

"They are waiting for you, my dear. The minister came some moments
ago. The clock has struck ten."

She handed her a pair of gloves from the table, and stood in the
door, waiting for her. Beulah drew them on, and then, with a long
breath, glanced at Dr. Hartwell. He looked restless, and, she
thought, sterner, than she had seen him since his return. He was
very pale and his lips were compressed firmly.

"You look frightened, Beulah. You tremble," said he, drawing her arm
through his and fixing his eyes searchingly on her face. "Yes. Oh,
yes. I believe I am frightened," she answered, with a constrained
smile.

She saw his brow darken and his cheek flush; but he said no more,
and led her down to the parlor, where the members of the family were
assembled. Claudia and Eugene were also present. The minister met
them in the center of the room; and there, in the solemn hush, a few
questions were answered, a plain band of gold encircled her finger,
and the deep tones of the clergyman pronounced her Guy Hartwell's
wife. Eugene took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly,
whispering:

"God bless you, dear sister and friend! I sincerely hope that your
married life will prove happier than mine."

Their congratulations wearied her, and she was glad when the
carriage came to bear her away. Bidding adieu to her friends, she
was handed into the carriage, and Dr. Hartwell took the seat beside
her. The ride was short; neither spoke, and when the door was
opened, and she entered the well-remembered house, she would gladly
have retreated to the greenhouse and sought solitude to collect her
thoughts; but a hand caught hers, and she soon found herself seated
on a sofa in the study. She felt that a pair of eyes were riveted on
her face, and suddenly the blood surged into her white cheeks. Her
hand lay clasped in his, and her head drooped lower, to avoid his
searching gaze.

"Oh, Beulah! my wife! why are you afraid of me?"

The low, musical tones caused her heart to thrill strangely; she
made a great effort, and lifted her head. She saw the expression of
sorrow that clouded his face; saw his white brow wrinkle; and, as
her eyes fell on the silver threads scattered through his brown
hair, there came an instant revolution of feeling. Fear vanished;
love reigned supreme. She threw her arms up about his neck, and
exclaimed:

"I am not afraid of you now. May God bless my guardian! my husband!"

Reader, marriage is not the end of life; it is but the beginning of
a new course of duties; but I cannot now follow Beulah. Henceforth
her history is bound up with another's. To save her husband from his
unbelief is the labor of future years. She had learned to suffer and
to bear patiently; and though her path looks sunny, and her heart
throbs with happy hopes, this one shadow lurks over her home and
dims her joys. Weeks and months glided swiftly on. Dr. Hartwell's
face lost its stern rigidity, and his smile became constantly
genial. His wife was his idol; day by day his love for her seemed
more completely to revolutionize his nature. His cynicism melted
insensibly away; his lips forgot their iron compression; now and
then, his long-forgotten laugh rang through the house. Beulah was
conscious of the power she wielded, and trembled lest she failed to
employ it properly. One Sabbath afternoon she sat in her room, with
her cheek on her hand, absorbed in earnest thought. Her little Bible
lay on her lap, and she was pondering the text she had heard that
morning. Charon came and nestled his huge head against her.
Presently she heard the quick tramp of hoofs and whir of wheels; and
soon after her husband entered and sat down beside her.

"What are you thinking of?" said he, passing his hand over her head
caressingly.

"Thinking of my life--of the bygone years of struggle."

"They are past, and can trouble you no more. 'Let the dead past bury
its dead!'"

"No; my past can never die. I ponder it often, and it does me good;
strengthens me, by keeping me humble. I was just thinking of the
dreary, desolate days and nights I passed, searching for a true
philosophy and going further astray with every effort. I was so
proud of my intellect; put so much faith in my own powers; it was no
wonder I was so benighted."

"Where is your old worship of genius?" asked her husband, watching
her curiously.

"I have not lost it all. I hope I never shall. Human genius has
accomplished a vast deal for man's temporal existence. The physical
sciences have been wheeled forward in the march of mind, and man's
earthly path gemmed with all that a merely sensual nature could
desire. But, looking aside from these channels, what has it effected
for philosophy, that great burden, which constantly recalls the
fabled labors of Sisyphus and the Danaides? Since the rising of
Bethlehem's star, in the cloudy sky of polytheism, what has human
genius discovered of God, eternity, destiny? Metaphysicians build
gorgeous cloud palaces, but the soul cannot dwell in their cold,
misty atmosphere. Antiquarians wrangle and write; Egypt's moldering
monuments are raked from their desert graves, and made the theme of
scientific debate; but has all this learned disputation contributed
one iota to clear the thorny way of strict morality? Put the Bible
out of sight, and how much will human intellect discover concerning
our origin-our ultimate destiny? In the morning of time sages
handled these vital questions, and died, not one step nearer the
truth than when they began. Now, our philosophers struggle,
earnestly and honestly, to make plain the same inscrutable
mysteries. Yes; blot out the records of Moses, and we would grope in
starless night; for, notwithstanding the many priceless blessings it
has discovered for man, the torch of science will never pierce and
illumine the recesses over which Almighty God has hung his veil.
Here we see, indeed, as 'through a glass, darkly.' Yet I believe the
day is already dawning when scientific data will not only cease to
be antagonistic to Scriptural accounts, but will deepen the impress
of Divinity on the pages of Holy Writ; when 'the torch shall be
taken out of the hand of the infidel, and set to burn in the temple
of the living God'; when Science and Religion shall link hands. I
revere the lonely thinkers to whom the world is indebted for its
great inventions. I honor the tireless laborers who toil in
laboratories; who sweep midnight skies in search of new worlds; who
unheave primeval rocks, hunting for footsteps of Deity; and I
believe that every scientific fact will ultimately prove but another
lamp planted along the path which leads to a knowledge of Jehovah!
Ah! it is indeed peculiarly the duty of Christians 'to watch, with
reverence and joy, the unveiling of the august brow of Nature by the
hand of Science; and to be ready to call mankind to a worship ever
new'! Human thought subserves many useful, nay, noble, ends; the
Creator gave it, as a powerful instrument, to improve man's temporal
condition; but oh, sir, I speak of what I know, when I say: alas,
for that soul who forsakes the divine ark, and embarks on the gilded
toys of man's invention, hoping to breast the billows of life and be
anchored safely in the harbor of eternal rest! The heathens, 'having
no law, are a law unto themselves'; but for such as deliberately
reject the given light, only bitter darkness remains. I know it; for
I, too, once groped, wailing for help."

"Your religion is full of mystery," said her husband gravely.

"Yes; of divine mystery. Truly, 'a God comprehended is no God at
all!' Christianity is clear, as to rules of life and duty. There is
no mystery left about the directions to man; yet there is a divine
mystery infolding it, which tells of its divine origin, and promises
a fuller revelation when man is fitted to receive it. If it were not
so we would call it man's invention. You turn from Revelation
because it contains some things you cannot comprehend; yet you
plunge into a deeper, darker mystery when you embrace the theory of
an eternal, self-existing universe, having no intelligent creator,
yet constantly creating intelligent beings. Sir, can you understand
how matter creates mind?"

She had laid her Bible on his knee; her folded hands rested upon it,
and her gray eyes, clear and earnest, looked up reverently into her
husband's noble face. His soft hand wandered over her head, and he
seemed pondering her words.

May God aid the wife in her holy work of love!





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