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Title: Fairy Gold
Author: Reid, Christian
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fairy Gold" ***

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Internet Archive)



  FAIRY GOLD

  _By_ CHRISTIAN REID

  _Author of "Véra's Charge," "Philip's Restitution," "A Child of
  Mary," "His Victory," etc._

  [Illustration]


  THE AVE MARIA PRESS
  NOTRE DAME, INDIANA


COPYRIGHT, 1897,

BY

D.E. HUDSON.



FAIRY GOLD.



PRELUDE.


"Claire! do stop that tiresome practicing and come here. Helen and I
want you."

The voice was very clear and vibrating, and had a ring of command in it
as it uttered these words; while the summer dusk was dying away, and
the summer air came soft and sweet into the school-room of a convent,
that, from the eminence on which it stood, overlooked a city at its
feet, and the rise and fall of Atlantic tides. It was drawing toward
the close of the exercise-hour, but the two girls who stood together
in school-girl fashion beside an open window, and the third, who in an
adjoining music-room was diligently practicing Chopin, were not the
only ones who had neglected its observance and incurred no rebuke;
for was not to-morrow the end of the scholastic year, and did not
relaxation of rules already reign from dormitory to class-room?

Many hearts were beating high at the thought of the freedom which that
morrow would bring; many dreams were woven of the bright world which
lay beyond these quiet shades; of pleasures which were to replace
the monotonous round of occupation in which youth had so far been
spent--the round of lessons from teachers whose voices were gentle as
their faces were holy and serene; of quiet meditations in the beautiful
chapel, with its sculptured altar and stained-glass windows and
never-dying lamp; of walks in the green old garden, and romps along its
far-stretching alleys. They were ready to leave it all behind, these
careless birds, eager to try their new-fledged wings; and when the heat
and burden of the day should come down upon them, how much they would
give for one hour of the old quiet peace, the old happy ignorance!

And among them all no face was more bright with triumphant hope--or
was it triumphant resolve?--than hers whose voice went ringing through
the almost deserted school-room, in the half-entreaty, half-command
recorded above.

The sound of the piano ceased on the instant; a slight rustling
followed, as of music being put away; and then a girl came down the
middle aisle of desks, toward the window which overlooked the garden
and faced the glowing western sky, where the two girls were standing,
both of whom turned as she advanced.

"You must pardon me," she said, in a tone of apology. "I did not mean
to stay so long, but I forget myself when I am at the piano, and I
could scarcely bear to think that this was my last hour of practice."

"I am quite sure that it will not be your last hour of practice," said
the girl who had spoken first. "You are too fond of drudgery for that.
But how can you talk of not bearing to think of its being the last
_here_, when Helen and I have been congratulating each other on the
fact until we exhausted all our expressions of pleasure, and had to
call on you to help us?"

"Then you would have done better to let me finish my practicing,"
said the other, with a faint smile; "for I cannot help you with one
expression of pleasure: I am too sorry."

"Sorry!"--it was the one called Helen who broke in here. "Oh! how can
you say that, when we are going home to be so happy?"

"_You_ are going home, dear," remarked Claire, gently.

"And are not you? Is not my home your home, and will I not be hurt if
you do not feel it so?"

"You are very kind, dear," said Claire; "but you cannot give me what
God has denied. Perhaps I too might be glad of to-morrow, Helen, if I
had your future or Marion's courage; but, lacking both, I only feel
afraid and sad. I feel as if I should like to stay here forever--as if
I were being pushed out into a world with which I am not able to cope."

"But a world which shall never harm you so long as my love and Marion's
courage can help you," said Helen, as she passed her disengaged arm
around the slender form. "You know we three are pledged to stand
together as long as we live; are we not, Marion?"

"I know that Claire is very foolish," answered Marion. "If I had her
talent I should be eager to go into the world--eager to cope with and
overcome it. Everyone says that she is certain to succeed, and of all
the gifts in the world fame must be the sweetest."

"I suppose it is," said Claire; "but I know enough of art--just
enough--to be aware that it is a long journey before one can even dream
of fame. I love to paint--oh! yes, better than anything else,--but I
know what difficult work lies before me in becoming an artist."

"Yet you do not mind work," observed Helen, in a wondering tone.

"No." answered the other, "not here, where I had help and encouragement
and the sense of safe shelter. But out in the world, where I shall have
only myself to look to, and no one to care whether I fail or not--well,
I confess my courage ebbs as I think of that."

"How strange!" said Marion. "If my hands were as free as yours are, I
should like nothing better than for them to be as empty--if you can
call hands empty that have such a power."

"And are not your hands as free as mine?" asked the other. "We are both
orphans, and both--"

"Poor," said Marion, frankly. "Yes, but with a difference. Most people,
I suppose, would think the difference in my favor; _I_ think it is in
yours. You have no family obligations to prevent your doing what you
will with your life, from following the bent of your genius; while
I--well, it is true I have no genius, but if I had it would be all the
same. My uncle would never consent to my doing anything to lower the
family dignity, and I owe him enough to make me feel bound to respect
his wishes."

"It is well to have some one whose wishes one is bound to respect,"
said Claire gently, and then a silence fell.

They were decided contrasts, these three girls, as they stood together
by the open window, and looked out on the bright sunset and down into
the large garden;--decided contrasts, yet all possessed in greater or
less degree the gift of beauty.

It was certainly in greater degree with Marion Lynde, whose daily
expanding loveliness had been the marvel of all who saw her for two
years past;--the marvel even in this quiet convent, where human aspect
was perhaps of less account than any where else on all God's earth. The
little children had looked with admiration on her brilliant face, the
older girls had gazed on it with throbs of unconscious envy; the nuns
had glanced pityingly at the girl who bore so proudly that often fatal
dower; and many times the Mother Superior had sent up a special prayer
for this defiant soldier of life, when she saw her kneeling at Mass or
Benediction with a many-tinted glory streaming over her head.

As she stood now in her simple school dress, Marion was a picture
of striking beauty. Tall, slight, graceful, there was in her grace
something imperial and unlike other women. Her white skin, finely
grained and colorless as the petal of a lily, suited the regular,
clear-cut features; while her eyes were large and dark--splendid eyes,
which seemed to carry lustre in their sweeping glance,--and her hair
was a mass of red gold. Altogether a face to study with a sense of
artistic pleasure,--a face to admire as one admires a statue or a
painting; but not a face that attracted or wakened love, as many less
beautiful faces do, or as that of her cousin, Helen Morley, did.

For everyone loved Helen--a winsome creature, with lips that seemed
formed only for smiles, and hands ever ready to caress and aid; with
endearing ways that the hardest heart could not have resisted, and
a heaven-born capacity for loving that seemed inexhaustible. It was
impossible to look on the bright young face and think that sorrow could
ever darken it, or that tears would ever dim the clear violet of those
joyous eyes. From the Mother Superior down to the youngest scholar, all
loved the girl, and all recognized how entirely she seemed marked out
for happy destinies. "You must not let the brightness of this world
veil Heaven from your sight, my child," the nuns would say, as they
laid their hands on the silken-soft head, and longed to hold back from
the turmoil of life this white dove, whose wings were already spread
for flight from the quiet haven where they had been folded for a time.

Least beautiful of the three girls was Claire Alford,--a girl whose
reserved manner had perhaps kept love as well as familiarity at bay
during the years of her convent tutelage. Even Marion, with all her
haughty waywardness, had more friends than this quiet student. Yet
no one could find fault with Claire. She was always considerate and
gentle, quick to oblige and slow to take offense. But she lived a life
absorbed within itself, and those around her felt this. They felt that
her eyes were fixed on some distant goal, to which every thought of her
mind and effort of her nature was directed.

The only child and orphan of a struggling artist--a man of genius, but
who died before he conquered the recognition of the world,--Claire knew
that her slender fortune would hardly suffice for the expenses of her
education, and that afterward she must look for aid to herself alone.
Usually life goes hard with a woman under such circumstances as these.
But Claire had one power as a weapon with which to fight her way. Her
talent for painting had been the astonishment of all her teachers, and
it was a settled thing that she would make art the object and pursuit
of her life. If least beautiful of the three girls who stood there
together, an observant glance might have lingered longest on her. There
was something very attractive in the gray eyes that gazed so steadily
from under their long lashes, and in the smile that stirred now and
then the usually grave and gentle lips.

It only remains to be added that both Claire and Helen were Catholics,
while Marion had been brought up in Protestantism, which resulted, in
her case, in absolute religious indifference.

The silence had lasted for some time, when Helen's voice at last broke
it, saying:--

"You are right, Claire. It does make one sad to think that we are
standing together for the last time in our dear old school-room. We
have been so happy here! I wonder if we shall be _very_ much more happy
out in the world?"

"I doubt if we shall ever be half as happy again," answered Claire.

"Oh, you prophet of evil! Why not?"

"Why not, Helen!" repeated Claire. "Because I doubt if we shall ever
again feel so entirely at peace with ourselves and with others as we
have felt here."

"It is a very nice place," observed Helen; "and I love the Mother
Superior and all the Sisters dearly. But, then, of course, I want to
see mamma and Harry and little Jock. I want to ride Brown Bess again,
and I do want to go to a party Claire."

"Well," said Claire, smiling, "I suppose there is no doubt that you
will go to a good many parties, and I hope you will enjoy them."

"There is no doubt of her enjoyment," interposed Marion, speaking in
her usual half satiric tone, "if Paul Rathborne is to be there."

"I was not thinking of Paul Rathborne, and neither, I am sure, was
Helen," said Claire.

"That is likely!" cried Marion, laughing. "Don't, Helen! I would not
tell a story to oblige Claire, if I were you."

But Helen had apparently little idea of telling the story. Even in the
dusk, the flush that overspread her face was visible, and the lids
drooped over the violet eyes.

"At all events, we will not talk of him," said Claire, decidedly. "We
will talk of ourselves and our own futures. We are standing on the
threshold of a new life, and surely we may spare a little time in
wondering how it will fare with us. Marion, what do you say?"

"If one may judge the future by the past, I should say, so far as I am
concerned, badly enough," Marion replied. "But whether I alter matters
for better or for worse, I don't mean to go on in the same old way; I
shall change the road, if I don't mend it."

"Change it in what manner?"

"I don't know exactly. Circumstances will have to decide that for
me. But I don't mean to go back to my uncle's, to share the family
economics, and hear the family complaints, and wear Adela's old
dresses; you may be sure of that, Claire!"

"But how can you avoid it," asked Claire, "when you have just said that
you will not disregard your uncle's wishes by attempting to support
yourself?"

"I shall not do anything to hurt the Lynde pride," answered the girl,
mockingly. "I shall only take my gifts of body and mind into the world,
and see what I can make of them."

"Make of them!" repeated Helen. "In what way?"

"There is only one way that I care about," returned the other,
carelessly: "the way of a fortune."

"Oh! I understand: you mean to marry a rich man."

"I mean that only as a last resort. The world would think worse of me
if I robbed a man of his fortune; but I should think worse of myself,
and wrong him more, if I married him to obtain it. No, Helen, I shall
not do that--if I can help it."

"But you would not be wronging him, Marion, if you loved him."

"And do you think," demanded the young cynic, "that one is likely to
love the man it is best for one to marry?"

"Yes, I think so--I know so."

"Ah! well, perhaps it may be so to such a child of happy fate as you
are, but it is never likely to occur to me."

"And is a fortune all that you mean to look for in life?" asked Helen.

"Why should I look for anything more? Does not that comprise
everything? Ah! you have never known the bitterness of poverty, or
you would not doubt that when one has fortune, one has all that is
necessary for happiness."

"But I have known poverty," broke in Claire; "and I know, Marion, that
there are many worse things in life than want of money, and many better
things than possessing it."

"That is all you know about the matter," replied Marion, with an air
of scorn. "Perhaps I, too, might be able to feel in that way, if I had
known only the poverty that you have--a picturesque, Bohemian poverty,
with no necessity to pretend to be what you were not. But genteel
poverty, which must keep up appearances by a hundred makeshifts and
embarrassments and meannesses--have you ever known _that_? It has been
the experience of my life,--one which I shudder to recall, and which I
would sooner die than go back to."

"Poor darling! you shall not go back to it," cried Helen.

But Marion threw off her caressing hand.

"Don't, Helen!" she said, sharply. "I can't bear pity, even from you.
But I have talked enough of myself. You both know what I am going to
do: to make a fortune by some means. Now it is your turn, Claire, to
tell your ambition."

"You know it very well," answered Claire, quietly. "I am going to be an
artist, and perhaps, if God helps me, to make a name."

"Yes, I know," said Marion, gloomily. "Yours is a noble ambition, and I
think you will succeed."

"I hope so," responded Claire, looking out on the sunset with her
earnest eyes. "At least I know that I have resolution and perseverance,
and I used to hear my father say that with those things even mediocre
talent could do much."

"And yours is not mediocre. Yet you talk of being sorry to leave here,
with such a prospect before you."

"Such a battle, too. And people say that the world is very hard and
stern to those who fight it single-handed."

"So much the better!" cried Marion, flinging back her head with an air
of defiance. "There will be so much the more glory in triumph."

"You never seem to think of failure," observed Claire, with a smile.
"But now Helen must tell us what she desires her future to be."

"Mine?" said Helen. "Oh! I leave all such things as fortune and fame to
you and Marion. I mean only to be happy."

"To be happy!" repeated Marion. "Well, I admire your modesty. You have
set up for yourself a much more difficult aim than either Claire's or
my own. And how do you mean to be happy? That is the next question."

"I don't know," replied Helen, with a laugh. "I just mean to go home to
enjoy myself; that is all. And how happy it makes me to think that you
are both going with me!"

"Dear little Helen!" said Claire, caressingly. "But it will not make
you unhappy to hear that I am not going with you, will it? I have just
found out that I can not go."

"Not go!" repeated Helen. The deepest surprise and disappointment were
written on her face. "O, Claire, it is impossible that you can mean
it--that you can be so unkind! Why do you say such a thing?"

"I say it because it is true, dear; though it is a greater
disappointment to me than to you. I have just had a letter from my
guardian, telling me he has found an opportunity to send me abroad with
a lady, an acquaintance of his own; and I have no choice but to go."

"I should think you would be delighted to find such an opportunity,"
said Marion. "But surely the lady is not going to Rome at this season?"

"No: she is going to Germany for the summer, and to Italy in the
autumn; which is a very good thing, for I shall see the galleries of
Dresden and Munich before I go to Rome. Of course I am glad--I must be
glad--to find the opportunity at once; but I had promised myself the
pleasure of a quiet, happy month with Helen and you, and I am sorry to
lose it."

"It is too bad," said Helen, with a sound as of tears in her voice. "I
had anticipated so much pleasure in our all three being together! And
now--why could not your guardian have waited to find the lady, or why
does she not put off going abroad until the autumn?"

"Why, in short, is not the whole scheme of things arranged with
reference to one insignificant person called Claire Alford?" replied
Claire, laughing. "No, dear; there is no help for it. I must give up
the idea of a short rest before the combat."

"And now there is no telling when we shall all be together again!" said
Helen. "I could not have believed that such a disappointment was in
store for me."

"I hope you will never know a worse one," remarked Claire. "But if we
live, we must meet again some day. We are too good friends to suffer
such trifles as time and space to separate us always."

"But you are going so far away, one cannot tell when or where that
meeting will be," said Helen, still mournfully.

"Perhaps it may be when Marion has made her fortune, and asks us to
visit her castle," answered Claire. "Marion, have you formed any plans
as to where it is to be situated? Marion, don't you hear?"

"What is it?" asked Marion, starting. "I beg your pardon, but I was
thinking. Did you say, Claire, that this visit, which you could not
make, would have been a rest before the combat to you? I was wondering
if it will be a rest to me or a beginning."

She spoke half dreamily, and neither of the others answered. They only
stood with the sunset glow falling on their fair young faces, their
wistful gaze resting upon each other, and quite silent, until a bell
pealed softly out on the twilight air, and their last school-day ended
forever.



CHAPTER I.


There is nothing specially attractive about Scarborough--a town which
nestles among green hills near the foot of the Blue Ridge,--except its
salubrious and delightful climate, which has long drawn summer visitors
from the lower malarial country; but if it had been as beautiful as
Naples or as far-famed as Venice, it could not have wakened more loving
delight than that which shone in Helen Morley's eyes as she drew near
it. For that deeply-rooted attachment to familiar scenes--to those
aspects of nature on which the eyes first opened, and which to the
child are like the face of another mother--was as strong in her as it
is in most people of affectionate character. For several miles before
the train reached Scarborough, she was calling Marion's attention to
one familiar landmark after another; and when finally they stopped at
the station on the outskirts of the town, her eagerness knew no bounds.

"Come, Marion; here we are!" she cried, springing up hastily. But at
that moment the car was burst open by a tall young man, who entered,
followed by two small boys, upon all three of whom, as it seemed to
Marion, Helen, with a glad little cry, precipitated herself. There were
embraces, kisses, inquiries for a moment; then the young man turned
and held out his hand, saying, "This is Miss Lynde, I am sure?"

"Yes," said Helen, turning her flushed, smiling face. "And this is my
cousin, Frank Morley, Marion. And here is my brother Harry, who has
almost grown to be a man since I went away; and here is little Jock."

Marion shook hands with all these new acquaintances; the boys seized
bags and baskets, and the young man led the way from the car and
assisted them to the platform outside, near which a large open carriage
was standing, with a broadly-smiling ebony coachman, whom Helen greeted
warmly. Then her cousin told her that she had better drive home at
once. "I shall stay and attend to the trunks, and will see you later,"
he said.

So Helen, Marion, and the boys were bundled into the carriage, and
drove away through the streets of Scarborough,--Helen explaining that
her home was at the opposite end of the town from the station. "Indeed
we are quite in the county," she said: "and I like it much better than
living in town."

"Who would wish to live in a town like this!" asked Marion, eying
disdainfully the rural-looking streets through which they were passing.
"I like the overflowing life, the roar and fret of a great city; but
places of this kind seem to me made only to put people to sleep,
mentally as well as physically."

"Oh, Scarborough is a very nice place when you know it!" said Helen,
in arms at once for her birth-place. "And I assure you people are not
asleep in it, by any means."

"These young gentlemen certainly look wide awake," resumed Marion,
regarding the two boys, who were in turn regarding her with large and
solemn eyes. "And so looked your cousin--very wide awake indeed."

"Oh, Frank is a delightful boy!" exclaimed Helen; "and I am very fond
of him."

"I am glad to hear it," said Marion. "I hope you will be fond enough of
him to keep him away from me; for if I abhor anything, it is a boy--I
mean" (with a glance at the two young faces before her) "a boy who
fancies himself a man."

"Frank is twenty years old," observed Harry, who, being himself barely
ten, naturally regarded this as a venerable age.

"So I imagined," replied Marion; "and twenty is not my favorite
age--for a man. Jock's age suits me better. Jock, how old are you?"

Jock replied that he was seven; but at this point an exclamation from
Helen cut the conversation short; for now they were rapidly approaching
a house situated in the midst of large grounds on the outskirts of
the town,--a shade-embowered dwelling, on the broad veranda of which
flitting forms were to be seen, as the carriage paused a moment for the
gate to be opened. Helen stood up and eagerly waved her handkerchief;
then they drove in, swept around a large circle and drew up before an
open door, from which poured a troop of eager welcomers of all ages and
colors.

It seemed to Marion a babel of sound which ensued--kisses, welcomes,
hand-shakings, questions,--then she was swept along by the tide into
the cool, garnished house, and thence on to a bowery chamber, where
she was left for a little while to herself: since Helen was, after
all, the grand object of the ovation, and it was into Helen's room
that the loyal crowd gathered, who had merely given to Marion that
cordial welcome which no stranger ever failed to receive on a Southern
threshold.

Only Helen's mother--who, having been twice married, was now Mrs.
Dalton--lingered behind with the young stranger, and looked earnestly
into the fair face, as if seeking a likeness.

"You are very little like your mother, my dear," she said at last;
"though you have her eyes. Alice was beautiful, but it was a gentle
beauty; while you--well, I think you must be altogether a Lynde."

"I know that I am very like the Lyndes," Marion answered. "I have a
miniature of my father, which I can see myself that I resemble."

"He was a very handsome man," said Mrs. Dalton, "and daring--ah! it
was no wonder that he was among the first to rush into the war, and
among the first to be killed! My child, you do not know how my heart
has yearned over you during all these years, how happy I was to hear of
your being at the convent with Helen, and now how glad I am to see you
under my own roof. I want you to feel that you are like a daughter of
the house."

"You are very kind," replied Marion, touched by the evident sincerity
of the words. "I am glad, too, to know at last some of my mother's
kindred."

"I can't help wishing that you looked more like her," said Mrs. Dalton,
returning wistfully to that point. "She was very lovely--though you--I
suppose I need not tell you what _you_ are. My dear"--and suddenly the
elder woman stooped to kiss the younger--"I am sorry for you."

"I am sorry for you!" The words lingered on Marion's ear after her
aunt's kindly presence had left the room and she stood alone, asking
herself why she was so often met in this manner. Why was it that, even
with her royal beauty, she had thus far encountered more of pity than
of admiration? Why did all eyes that had looked on the sin and sorrow
of earth regard her with compassion, and why had she heard so often in
her old life that which was her first greeting in the new--"I am sorry
for you"?

"Sorry!--for what?" The girl asked herself this with fiery and
impatient disdain. What did they all mean? Why did this keynote of
unknown misfortune or suffering meet her at every turn, like a shadow
flung forward by the unborn future? Why did this refrain always ring
in her ears? She was tired of it--so she said to herself with sudden
passion,--and she would let the future prove whether or not their pity
was misplaced.

She let down her magnificent hair as she thought this, and looked at
herself in the mirror out of a burnished cloud. Not, however, as most
beautiful women look at the fair image that smiles from those shadowy
depths--not with the gratified gaze of self-admiration or the glance of
conscious power, but with a criticism severe and stern enough to have
banished all loveliness from a less perfect face; with a cool reckoning
and appreciation, in which the innocent vanity of girlhood bore no
part. And when this scrutiny was ended, the smile that came over her
face spoke more of resolution than of pleasure.

She took up a comb then, and began arranging her hair. The task did not
occupy her many minutes; for her deft fingers were very quick, and no
one had ever accused her of caring for the arts of the toilet. On the
contrary, she had always manifested a careless disregard of them, which
puzzled her associates, and was by not a few set down to affectation.
Now, when she had piled her hair on top of her head like a coronal
of red gold, she proceeded to make her simple toilet, with scarcely
another glance toward the mirror. It was soon completed, and she had
been ready some time when a knock at the door was followed by the
appearance of Helen's beaming face.

"So you are dressed?" she said. "I came to show you the way down. I
would have come sooner, but, you know, there was so much to say."

"And to hear," added Marion. "I can imagine, though I do not know, what
such a home-coming is. And what a lovely home you have, Helen!"

"You have hardly seen it yet," answered Helen. "Come and let me show
you all over it."

It was certainly a spacious and pleasant house, built with the stately,
honest solidity of the work of former generations, but with many modern
additions which served to enhance its picturesqueness and comfort.
Marion praised it with a sincerity that delighted Helen; and, having
made a thorough exploration, they passed out of the wide lower hall
into a veranda, which, as in most Southern houses, was at this hour the
place of general rendezvous. Here a pretty dark-eyed girl came forward
to meet them.

"I was introduced to you when you arrived, Miss Lynde," she said, "but
there was such a hubbub I fancy you did not notice me, and I am glad to
welcome you again. I feel as if Helen's cousin must be my cousin too."

"Helen's cousin is much obliged," said Marion. "You are Miss Morley,
then?"

"I am the Netta of whom you have doubtless heard. But pray sit down.
Are you not tired from your journey?"

"A little. It was so warm and dusty!" answered Marion. "But this seems
a perfect place of rest," she added, as she sank on a lounge that had
been placed just under the odorous shade of the vines which overran
the front of the veranda. "I mean to indulge freely in the luxury of
idleness here."

"I hope you will," said Helen. "But I wish that you felt sufficiently
rested to come with me into the garden. I should like you to see how
lovely it is."

"I wish that I did, but I don't. Pray go yourself, however. You must
not let me begin my visit by being a bore to you. Miss Morley, pray
take her along."

After some little demur, the two girls complied with her request, and
with sincere satisfaction Marion watched them disappear down the garden
paths. She was very fond of Helen, she told herself and certainly
believed; but, none the less, a very moderate amount of Helen's society
sufficed to content, and any more to weary her. Just now she felt
particularly wearied, as if both mind and body had been on a strain;
and, sinking back on the couch, with the vines breathing their rich
perfume over her, she remained so still while the shades of twilight
began to gather, that any one who discovered her would have had to look
very closely.

This was presently proved; for the silence, which had lasted some time,
was broken by a quick step--a step which passed across the veranda and
entered the hall, where a ringing and hilarious voice soon made itself
heard.

"Where is everybody?" it inquired. "Surely I am late enough! I thought
they would all be down by this time."

"They've all been down ever so long, Frank," a child's shrill tones
replied. "They are out in the garden--Helen and Netta and Cousin
Marion."

"Oh, very good! Come along, Jock, and let us find them," said Mr. Frank
Morley. "Has your cousin Paul been here yet?"

"No--not yet."

"Ah, better still! We are before him, then. I shall go and welcome
Helen over again, and take a kiss before she can prevent it."

"Then she'll box your ears--I saw her do it once!" cried Jock, in glee.
"Oh! yes; I'll come along with you, Frank."

The tall, lithe figure, followed by the smaller one, crossed the
veranda again, and strode toward the garden, leaving Marion smiling to
herself in her shady nook.

Ten minutes later another step--this time a more sedate one--sounded
on the gravel. But keener eyes explored the veranda before their owner
entered the house. Consequently they discovered the figure under the
vines, and Marion was startled by a quiet voice which said:--

"What! all alone, Helen? I had not hoped for such good fortune--so
soon."



CHAPTER II.


Probably the speaker had seldom been more surprised than when Marion
rose quickly, and, the last glow from the west falling over her, he
found himself face to face with a stranger.

Even to the most self-possessed there is something a little
embarrassing when tender tones or caressing words are heard by ears
for which they were not intended; and, although there was nothing
specially significant in the letter of this speech, its spirit had been
eloquent enough to make Mr. Paul Rathborne start with confusion when he
discovered his mistake.

"I beg pardon," he said, a little hastily--"I did not observe--that is"
(with a sudden grasp of self-possession), "I thought I was addressing
my cousin. I suppose I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Lynde?"

"Yes," answered Marion. "And you, I presume, are Mr. Rathborne?"

He bowed. "I am glad to perceive that you have heard of me."

"Oh!" said Marion, "in knowing Helen, one knows all the people that
make up her home circle. I assure you I feel intimately acquainted with
yourself and all the Morleys, and the children--"

"And probably the horses and the dogs," he said as she paused. "I am
aware of the comprehensiveness of Helen's affections."

"Her heart is large enough to hold all that she gives a place in it,"
remarked Marion.

"Oh! no doubt," said Mr. Rathborne. "But, perhaps, if one had one's
choice, one would be flattered by more exclusiveness."

Marion glanced at him and thought, "It is evidently in your nature to
want to monopolize." But she only said: "I do not think you have reason
to complain of your place in Helen's regard."

"I have no thought of complaining," he replied; "I am very grateful for
all the regard she is good enough to give me."

The humility of the words could not conceal an arrogance of tone,
which did not escape the ear of the listener. At that moment she was
as thoroughly convinced as ever afterward that this man perfectly
understood how paramount was the place he held in Helen's regard.

"Helen's affection is something for which one may well be grateful,"
she observed, sincerely enough. "But do you not wish to find her? She
is in the garden."

Mr. Rathborne did not stir. "If she is in the garden," he said, "she
will no doubt come in presently. And I judge from sounds which I hear
in that direction that she is not alone. If you do not object, I will
remain here and wait for her."

"Object! Why should I object?" asked Marion. She reseated herself, and
was not displeased that Mr. Rathborne drew forward a chair and also sat
down. She was aware that he was, in a manner, engaged to Helen--in
other words, that their positive engagement had only been deferred on
account of Helen's youth; but the fact did not at all detract from the
interest he had for her--the interest of a man with wider life and,
presumably, wider thoughts than the school-girls who, up to this time,
had formed her social atmosphere. It offended her, therefore, that when
he spoke next it was in the tone of one addressing a school-girl.

"I suppose, Miss Lynde, that, like Helen, you were very much attached
to the convent?"

"It is not at all safe to suppose that I am in any respect like Helen,"
she replied. "We are very good friends, but exceedingly different in
character."

"And therefore in tastes?"

"That follows, does it not? Different characters must have different
tastes."

"It certainly seems a natural inference. And so I am to presume that
you were _not_ attached to the convent?"

"That is going rather too far. I liked it better than any other
school at which I ever was placed. But I am not fond of restraint and
subjection; therefore I am glad that my school-days are over."

Mr. Rathborne smiled slightly. Even in the dusk he could see enough of
the presence before him to judge that restraint and subjection would
indeed be little likely to please this imperial-looking creature.

"I am to congratulate you, then," he said, "on the fact that your
school-days are definitely over?"

"Yes, they are definitely over, and it remains now to be seen what
schooling life holds for me."

"Certainly a singular girl this!" thought the man, who was well aware
that most young ladies had little thought of what schooling life might
hold for them. "If I may be permitted to prophesy," he said aloud, "I
think that life has in store for you only pleasant experiences."

"That is very kind of you," answered Marion, with a mocking tone in
her voice, which was very familiar to her associates; "but I don't
know that I have any claim to special exemption from the usual lot of
mankind; and certainly pleasant experiences are not the usual lot,
unless everyone is very much mistaken."

"People are too much given to sitting down and moaning over the
unpleasantness of life, when they might make it otherwise by taking
matters into their own hands," said Mr. Rathborne. "But that requires a
strong will."

"And something beside will, does it not?"

"Oh! of course the ability to seize opportunity, and make one's self
master of it."

"That is what I should like," said Marion, speaking as if to herself:
"to seize opportunity. But the opportunity must come in order to be
seized."

"There is little doubt but that it will come to you," remarked her
companion, more and more impressed.

How far the conversation might have progressed in this personal vein,
into which it had so unexpectedly fallen, it is difficult to say; for a
spark of congenial sympathy had been already struck between these two
people, who a few minutes before had been absolute strangers to each
other. But at this point Mrs. Dalton stepped out of the hall and came
toward them.

"I thought I heard your voice, Paul," she said, as Rathborne rose to
shake hands with her; "and I wondered to whom you were talking, since I
knew the girls were in the garden. But this is Marion, is it not?"

"It is Marion," replied that young lady. "I did not go into the
garden--I felt too tired,--and Mr. Rathborne found me here a few
minutes ago."

"It is somewhat late for an introduction, then," said Mrs. Dalton,
"since you have already made acquaintance."

"Not a very difficult task," observed Rathborne. "I have heard a good
deal of Miss Lynde, and she was good enough to say that my name was not
altogether unknown to her."

"Helen talks so much of her friends that they could hardly avoid
knowing one another," resumed Mrs. Dalton. "But pray go and tell her,
Paul, that it is time to come in to tea."

"With pleasure," said Mr. Rathborne, departing with an alacrity which
seemed to imply that only politeness had prevented his going before.

At least so Mrs. Dalton interpreted the quickness of his step, as she
looked after him for an instant, and then turned to Marion. "I suppose,
my dear," she said, "that you have heard Helen speak of Paul very
often?"

"Very often indeed," answered Marion.

"And you are probably aware that if I had not refused to allow her to
bind herself while she was so young, they would be engaged?"

Marion signified that she had also heard this--exhaustively.

"The responsibilities of a parent are very great," said Mrs. Dalton,
with a sigh. "I certainly have every reason to trust Paul, who has been
as helpful as a son to me in all business matters since my husband's
death--he is my nephew by marriage, you know--yet I hesitate when I
think of trusting Helen's happiness to him. She is so very affectionate
that I do not think she could be happy with any one who did not feel as
warmly as herself. Now, Paul is very reserved in character and cold in
manner. I fear that he would chill and wound her--after a while."

"But is it not a rule that people like best those who are most opposite
to them in character?" asked Marion, whose interest in Helen's
love-affair began to quicken a little since she had met its hero.

"I believe it is a general rule," replied Mrs. Dalton, dubiously; "but
I distrust its particular application in this case. And, then, they are
not of the same religion."

"Oh!" exclaimed Marion, carelessly, "that surely does not matter--with
liberal people."

"It matters with Catholics," said Mrs. Dalton. "Although not a Catholic
yourself, you ought to know that."

"I know that people who have always been Catholics feel so. But you,
who were once a Protestant--I should think that you would be more
broad."

"Converts are the last people to be broad in that respect," said Mrs.
Dalton. "They have known too much of the bitterness of differing
feeling on that subject. But you do not understand, so we will not
discuss it. I forgot for a moment that you are separated from us in
faith."

"I am separated from you because I do not hold _your_ faith," said
Marion, frankly; "but I am not separated because I hold any other. All
religions are alike to me, except that I respect the Catholic most. But
I could never belong to it."

"Never is a long day," observed Mrs. Dalton. "You do not know what
light the future may hold for you. However, we will talk of this
another time; for here come the garden party."

They came through the twilight as she spoke, the light dresses of the
girls showing with pretty effect against the dark masses of shrubbery,
and their gay young voices ringing out, with accompaniment of laughter,
through the still air.

"Marion!--where is Marion?" cried Helen, as she reached the veranda.
"Oh! there you are still, under the vines! Here is a greeting from the
garden that you would not go to see."

It was a cluster of odorous roses--splendid jacqueminots--which fell
into Marion's lap, and which she took up and pinned against her white
dress. Their glowing color lent a fresh touch of brilliancy to her
appearance when Paul Rathborne found himself opposite to her at the
well-lighted tea-table. The twilight had revealed to him that she was
handsome, but he had not been prepared for such beauty as now met and
fascinated his gaze. He regarded her with a wonder which was as evident
as his admiration, and not less flattering to her vanity. For Helen's
confidences had enabled her to form a very correct idea of this cold,
self-contained man; and she felt that to move him so much was no small
earnest of her power to move others.

Meanwhile she glanced at him now and then with critical observation,
seeing a keen face, with deep-set eyes under a brow more high than
broad; a thin-lipped mouth, which did not smile readily; and a general
air of reserve and power. It was a face not without attraction to the
girl, whose own spirit was sufficiently ambitious and arrogant to
recognize and respond to the signs of such a spirit in another. "He is
a man who means to make his way in the world, and who will use poor
little Helen as a stepping-stone," she thought. "A cold, supercilious,
selfish man--the kind of man who despises women, I fancy. Let us see if
he will despise _me_."

There was not much reason to suspect Mr. Rathborne of such presumption.
Almost his first remark to Helen, when they were together after tea,
was, "What a remarkable person your cousin seems to be!"

"Marion?" said Helen. "Yes, she is so remarkable that Claire and I have
often said that she is made for some great destiny. She looks like an
empress, does she not?"

Rathborne laughed. "She has a very imperial air, certainly," he said;
"and she is strikingly beautiful. She might have the world at her feet
if she had a fortune. But I suppose she has very little?"

"None at all, I think," answered Helen, simply. "And it has embittered
her. She values money too highly."

"It is difficult to do that," said Rathborne, dryly; "and Miss Lynde
knows what is fitted for her when she desires wealth. I never saw a
woman who seemed more evidently born for it."

"I wish I could give her my fortune," said Helen, sincerely. "She hates
poverty so much, while I would not at all mind being poor."

An echo of the wish shot through Rathborne's mind, but he only said,
with one of his faint, flitting smiles: "My dear Helen, you are not
exactly a judge of the poverty you have never tried. And, while it is
very good of you to wish to give your cousin your fortune, there can
be no doubt that with such a face she will not go through life without
finding one."

Helen looked across the room at the beautiful face of which he spoke.
In her heart no pang of envy stirred, only honest admiration as she
said: "I knew you would admire her!"

"Admire her--yes," Paul answered; "one could hardly fail to do that.
But I do not think I shall like her. I like amiable, gentle women,
and I am very certain that not even _you_ can say that Miss Lynde is
amiable and gentle."



CHAPTER III.


"You have not told me yet, Marion, what you think of Paul," said Helen
the next day.

The two girls were together in a handsome, airy parlor, through which
the stream of family life had been flowing all morning, but from which
it had now ebbed, leaving them alone. Helen, who had been flitting like
a bird from one occupation, or attempt at occupation, to another, now
threw herself into a chair by one of the low open windows, and looked
at Marion, who was lying luxuriously on a couch near by, and for an
hour past had not lifted her eyes from her book.

They were lifted now, however, and regarded the speaker quietly. "What
do I think of Mr. Rathborne?" she asked. "My dear Helen, what can I
possibly think of him on such short acquaintance, except that he is
tall and good-looking, and appears to have a very good opinion of
himself?"

"O Marion!"

"For all that I know, it may be an opinion based on excellent grounds,
but it is undoubtedly the first thing about him that attracts one's
attention."

"It _is_ based on excellent grounds," said Helen, with some spirit.
"Everyone who knows Paul admires and looks up to him."

"Not quite everyone," observed an unexpected voice, and through the
window by which she sat Mr. Frank Morley stepped into the room. "I am
sorry to come upon the scene with a contradiction," he said, as he took
his cousin's hand; "but really, you know, Helen, that is too sweeping
an assertion. _I_ don't look up to Paul Rathborne."

"So much the worse for you, then," said Helen. "A boy like you could
not do better."

"I think that a boy, even though he were like me, might do much better.
He might look up to someone who was not so selfish and conceited."

A rose flame came into Helen's cheeks. "You are very rude as well as
ill-natured," she answered in a low tone. "You have no right to say
such things to _me_."

"I have never been told that there was any reason why I should not
say them to you," replied the young man, significantly; "but I had no
intention of making myself disagreeable. After all, the truth is not
always to be told."

"It is not the truth," exclaimed Helen, with a flash of fire in her
glance. "Paul is neither selfish nor conceited. But you never liked
him, Frank--you know you never did."

"I never hesitated to confess it," said Frank; "but I regret having
annoyed you, Helen. I did not think you would take my opinion of Mr.
Rathborne so much to heart."

"It is not your opinion," responded Helen. "It is--it is the
injustice!" And then, as if unwilling to trust herself further, she
sprang up and left the room.

There was an awkward pause for a moment after her departure. Mr. Frank
Morley began to whistle, but checked himself, with an apologetic glance
at Marion, who, leaning back on the cushions of her couch, was faintly
smiling.

"I have, as usual, put my foot into it," said the young man. "But I
could not imagine that Helen would be so fiery. She used to laugh when
I abused Paul."

"Did she?" asked Marion. "But, then, you know, there comes a time when
one ceases to laugh; and if one likes a friend, one does not wish to
hear him abused. That time seems to have arrived with her."

"Yes," said Morley, rather ruefully. "And the worst of it is that it
looks as if she liked the fellow better than I imagined. I am awfully
sorry for that."

"You evidently do not like him."

"I!--no indeed. As Helen remarked, I never liked him, but I like him
less and less as time goes on."

"What is the matter with him?"

"Everything is the matter with him. He is as cold as a stone; he cares
for nobody in the world but Paul Rathborne, and for nothing that does
not advance that important person's interest. He is supercilious until
one longs to knock him down; and so ambitious that he would walk over
the body of his dearest friend--granting that he had such a thing--to
advance himself in life one inch."

"Altogether a very charming character!" remarked Marion. "It is certain
that you are not the dearest friend over whose body he would walk."

Young Morley laughed. "No," he said, frankly. "I would walk over _his_
with a good deal of pleasure; but he will never walk over mine, if I
can help it. Though he may, for all that," he added, after an instant;
"for he is so sharp that one can never tell what he is up to, until it
is too late to frustrate him."

"This is very interesting," said Marion. "It is like reading a novel to
hear a character analyzed in so masterly a manner."

Morley colored. He was too shrewd not to know that she was laughing at
him; but while the fact was sufficiently evident, it was not exactly
evident how best to show his appreciation of it. After a moment he
spoke in a tone which had a little offense in it:--

"I don't suppose the subject interests you, so I ought to beg pardon
for dwelling on it. But I only meant to explain why Helen was vexed."

"And now _you_ are vexed," observed Marion. "What have I done? I assure
you I was in earnest in saying I was interested in your analysis of Mr.
Rathborne's character."

"It sounded more as if you were satirical," said Morley. "And I was not
trying to analyze his character: I was only answering your questions
about it."

"Quite true, but those questions led to your analyzing it--and so
successfully, too, that I am going to ask another. Tell me if you think
he is much attached to Helen?"

A sudden cloud came over the young man's face, and his eyes seemed to
darken. "I do not think he is attached to her at all," he replied,
bluntly. "Or, if that is saying too much (for everyone _must_ be
attached to Helen), I do not believe he would wish to marry her but
for her fortune."

"Well," said Marion, philosophically, "I suppose it is the ordinary
fate of rich women to be married for their money. And, after all, they
do not seem to mind it: they appear happy enough."

"Helen would never be happy," said Frank Morley, impetuously.

"Do not be sure of that," responded the young cynic on the couch.
"There is a French proverb, you know, which says: '_Il y a toujours
l'un qui baisse et l'un qui tend la joue._' Helen would play the active
part in that to perfection."

The young man looked at her with something of indignation. "You may
consider yourself a friend of Helen's," he remarked, "but you certainly
do not understand her."

"No?" said Marion, smiling. "Then perhaps you will enlighten me, as you
have about Mr. Rathborne. I am probably deficient in penetration."

Morley made a gallant effort not to be betrayed into boyish petulance,
and succeeded sufficiently to say, with a dignity which amused his
tormentor:--

"I am sure that penetration is the last thing you are deficient in,
Miss Lynde. But you do not credit others with enough of the quality. I,
at least, know when I am laughed at. Now, if you will excuse me, I will
go and make my peace with Helen."

He walked out of the room, holding his slim, young figure very erect;
and Marion looked after him with a glance of mingled amusement and
approval.

"Very well done, Mr. Morley!" she said to herself. "You are an
uncommonly nice boy, with uncommonly clear reasons for your opinions.
Ten years hence you may be a very agreeable man. As for Mr. Rathborne,
your account of him agrees entirely with my own impressions. I really
do possess a little penetration, after all."

Then she took up her novel again, and settled back among the
sofa-cushions with an air of comfort. At that moment her only desire
was that she might not be disturbed for a reasonable length of time.
The people in the book interested her much more than the people who
surrounded her in life. At this period of her existence she was wrapped
in a ruthless egotism, which made all human beings shadows to her,
unless they touched her interest. It was not yet apparent whether any
of those who were now about her would touch her interest; and until
that fact was demonstrated, she troubled herself very little about them.

A quarter of an hour, perhaps, had passed without any one appearing to
disturb her quiet, when, through the same window by which young Morley
had entered, another presence stepped into the room. It was Rathborne,
who looked around, met Marion's eyes, and came toward her with a
pleased expression.

"It seems to me my good fortune to find you always alone, Miss Lynde,"
he observed.

"And it seems to be the custom here that visitors shall appear in the
most unexpected and informal manner," said Marion. "Do they always come
in unannounced, by way of the window?"

"Oh, no! Here, as elsewhere, most visitors enter decorously by way of
the door. But I have long been as familiarly intimate in this house as
if it were my home, and I expected to find the family assembled."

"The family has been assembled, but the different members have been
called away by one thing or another, until only I remain."

"You appear to be fond of solitude."

"Is not that a wide conclusion to draw from the fact that you have
found me twice alone?"

"Discerning people can draw wide conclusions from slight indications.
On each occasion a person sociably inclined would not have been left
alone."

"Generally speaking, I am not very sociably inclined, I suppose; but
that does not mean that I object to society--when it pleases me."

"I judge that you are not very easily pleased," answered Rathborne,
regarding the face which he found even more beautiful than his
recollection had painted it.

She looked at him with a smile so brilliant that it almost startled
him. "Are you trying to give me another proof of your discernment?" she
asked. "If so, you will be gratified to hear that you are right. I am
_not_ easily pleased--as a rule. I suppose people are much happier who
are not so 'difficult,' as my French teacher used to call me. There is
Helen, for instance; she likes everything and everybody, and she is
certainly happier than I am."

"But, then, unfortunately it is not very flattering to the vanity when
one pleases a person who is so easily pleased."

Marion lifted her eyebrows with a mocking expression. "But why should
one's vanity be flattered?" she asked. "It is not good for one that it
should be."

"Not good perhaps, but very pleasant," replied Mr. Rathborne; "and I
am, like yourself, somewhat 'difficult,' and hard to please."

"Ah! then you can sympathize with me. It is not an agreeable
disposition to possess."

"I can sympathize with you on a good many points--or at least so I have
the presumption to fancy," he said. "There is an instinct that tells
one these things. Even in our brief conversation yesterday evening I
felt as if a sympathetic understanding was established between us. It
seemed to me that we were likely to look at many things in the same
light."

It is hardly necessary to observe that, considering what she had
recently heard of the speaker's character, and hence of his probable
way of looking at things, Marion should not have been very much
flattered by this. But, as a matter of fact, she was flattered. She had
as strong a belief in her own powers, as strong a determination to make
events and people serve her ends, as Mr. Rathborne himself possessed.
But her powers were untried, her ability to impress people untested;
and this first proof that she _was_ remarkable--that even this cold,
selfish man recognized in her something altogether uncommon--something
allied to his own ambitious spirit,--was like wine to her self-esteem.
She thought that here was material on which she might try whatever
power she had, without fear of doing mischief,--material certain to
look after itself and its own interest in any event, and with which no
unpleasant results could be feared.

To do her justice, Marion wanted only to make a mental impression:
to extort admiration for her unusual gifts of mind and character
from this man, who, she knew instinctively, was not easily moved to
admiration or interest. If she forced it from him, then she might be
sure that it would be easy to win it from others. These thoughts were
not absolutely formulated in her mind at this moment, but they were
impressed on her consciousness sufficiently to make her reply:--

"You flatter me by saying so; for you are a man who knows the world,
and I was yesterday a school-girl. It would be strange, then, if we did
see things in the same light."

"It is difficult to realize that you were yesterday--or ever--a
school-girl," said Rathborne, leaning back and looking at her intently
from under his dark brows.

"That does not sound very flattering," she replied, with a laugh; and
yet in her heart she knew that it was just the kind of flattery she
desired.

"I am not trying to flatter you," he replied. "I am telling you exactly
how you impress me. And I do not see how, in the name of all that is
wonderful, you ever became what you are in that convent from which you
come."

A swift shade passed over Marion's face. "You must not blame or credit
the convent with what I am," she said. "If I had gone there earlier,
I might be a very different person. But my character and disposition
were formed when I went there, two years ago; and the influences of the
place could not change me, though they often made me feel as if change
would be desirable."

"They made you feel a mistake, then," remarked her companion, with
emphasis. "Change in you would not be desirable. You are--"

But Marion was not destined to hear just then what she was. Steps and
voices came across the hall; Helen's laugh sounded, and the next moment
Helen herself appeared in the doorway, followed by Frank Morley, who
had apparently succeeded in making his peace.



CHAPTER IV.


When Sunday came, Helen said to her cousin, rather wistfully: "Will you
go to church with us to-day, Marion?"

"Not to-day, I believe, if you will excuse me," answered Marion. "If I
go anywhere--which is doubtful--I suppose it ought to be to the church
I was brought up in."

"I thought you always said at the convent how much you preferred
Catholic services," said Helen, in a disappointed tone.

"Well, at the convent, you see, one had not much choice," replied the
other, laughing; "and, then, the services were charming there--so
poetical and beautiful. That chapel was a picture in itself. But, from
the outward appearance of your church here, I should not judge that it
possessed much inward beauty."

"No," said Helen, reluctantly, "it has not much beauty; but, then, the
Mass is everywhere the same, you know."

"For those who believe in it, very likely," was the careless rejoinder.
"But I am an outsider. I believe only in what I see; and when I see
beautiful ceremonies, I enjoy them for their beauty."

"It is just as well, in that case, that you should not go with us,
my dear," said Mrs. Dalton, from the head of the table--for this
conversation took place at breakfast. "Ours is a very plain little
chapel, the congregation being small and poor. If you are in search
of beautiful ceremonies, the Episcopal church will be more likely to
gratify you. They have a new Ritualistic clergyman there, who has
introduced many new customs, I hear."

"I see no particular reason why I should go anywhere," observed Marion,
truthfully. "It is a very pleasant day for staying at home."

But she was not destined to stay at home on this particular Sunday,
which was the beginning of a change in her life. After breakfast, while
they were enjoying the freshness of the summer morning on the veranda,
and before any chime of bells yet filled the air, Miss Morley made
her appearance, fully dressed for church parade; and, after a general
greeting, said to Marion:--

"I have come to inquire if you would like to go to church with me this
morning, Miss Lynde. I have heard Helen say that you are not a Roman
Catholic."

"I am not anything at all," answered Marion; "and I confess that I do
not, as a rule, see the need of church-going; but, since it is such a
pleasant day, and you are so kind as to come, Miss Morley,--may I ask
what church you attend?"

"Oh, Netta is an Episcopalian!" interposed Helen. "She will take you to
a handsome church, filled with well-dressed people, where you will have
pretty ceremonies and nice music to amuse you."

"Satire is not in your style, Helen," said Marion, putting out her
hand to give a soft pinch to the round arm near her. "But, since you
give such an attractive description, I believe I will go with Miss
Morley."

"Then we have not much time to spare," said that young lady, with a
glance at her dress, as a concert of bells suddenly burst out.

"Oh, I will be ready in a few minutes!" exclaimed Marion, smiling.

Her simple toilet was soon made, yet its very simplicity enhanced the
striking character of her beauty; and when she followed Miss Morley up
the softly-carpeted aisle of the Episcopal church, every eye turned on
her, and everyone wondered who she could be. To herself, the atmosphere
which surrounded her was very agreeable, speaking as it did of wealth
and refined tastes. Beautiful architectural forms, polished woods,
stained glass, a pretty procession; sweet, clear voices singing to the
rich roll of a fine organ; and a congregation which gave the impression
of belonging altogether to the favored classes of society,--these
things she liked, independently of any religious association or meaning.

Indeed, as a religious ceremony, the service seemed to Marion very
much of a failure, so recently had she witnessed the divine Reality of
worship. She missed the thrill of awe which had come even to her when
the Sacred Host was lifted up to heaven in the Mass; and her keen,
unprejudiced mind realized how entirely what she now saw was only the
mutilated remnant of an older and grander ritual. "It is a pity that
the Catholic religion is so exacting, and that so many common people
belong to it," she thought; "for it is the only one with any reality
about it, or any claim to one's respect."

Nobody would have suspected these reflections, however, from her
outward deportment. She went through the service decorously, and
listened with exemplary attention to the sermon, which was by no means
contemptible as a literary effort. Her beautiful face--conspicuously
placed in one of the front pews--somewhat distracted the attention of
the young clergyman, and he found himself now and again looking from
his MS. to meet the large, dark eyes fixed so steadily on him. But
Marion herself was distracted by no one, although she was aware of the
appearance and manner of everybody in her immediate neighborhood.

Among the rest, she observed a lady who sat near, and more than once
glanced inquiringly toward her; a lady of specially distinguished and
fashionable appearance. "She does not belong to Scarborough," thought
Marion, noticing (without appearing to do so) some of the details
of her costume. And her conclusion she soon found was correct. When
the services were over, and the congregation, passing out of church,
interchanged salutations as they went, Miss Morley acknowledged a
greeting from this lady; and Marion, as they walked on, said: "Who is
that handsome and elegant woman?"

"Mrs. Singleton," was the reply. "She is very handsome and very
elegant, is she not? But she does not live in Scarborough; she is here
only for the summer."

"I felt sure of that," thought Marion--though she had too much tact to
say so. "Who is she?--where does she come from?" she asked.

"She is one of _the_ Singletons," answered Netta--"at least her husband
is,--and you know who they are. They appear to have ample means, and
live in a great many places. She has just returned from Europe."

"And why has she come to Scarborough?" inquired Marion, in a tone not
altogether flattering to that place.

"Well, chiefly, I believe, because the climate here agrees wonderfully
with an old gentleman who is her husband's uncle, to whom they seem to
devote themselves."

"Is he wealthy?" asked Marion, with unconscious cynicism.

"Oh, very!" replied Netta, with simplicity; "immensely rich, I believe,
and has no children; so he lives with the Singletons, or _they_ live
with him."

"The last most likely," said Marion, whose knowledge of life was
largely drawn from its seamy side.

The conversation ended here, and she thought no more of it. But on the
evening of the next day Miss Morley came into the drawing room where
the family group were assembled after tea, and, turning to Marion,
said:--

"Do you remember our speaking of Mrs. Singleton as we came from church
yesterday, Miss Lynde? She seems to have been as much impressed by
you as you were by her. I met her on the street this morning, and she
stopped me to ask who you were. I suppose I must not venture to repeat
all that she said of your appearance, but I may tell you that she has
some connections named Lynde, and that she is very curious to know if
you belong to them."

"I am sorry that I can not satisfy her," said Marion, who showed no
signs of being as flattered as she really was. "Family genealogies have
never interested me. If my uncle were here now, he could tell her all
that she wished to know."

"So that elegant Mrs. Singleton is in Scarborough again this summer!"
cried Helen, with interest. "Is the same old gentleman with her, and do
they still keep up an establishment with so much style?"

"Oh, yes!" her cousin answered. "They have taken the Norton House for
the summer, and have brought a beautiful carriage and horses, and
servants, with them. Not many people have seen the old gentleman yet. I
hear that he is feebler than he was last year."

"Then no doubt Mrs. Singleton still laments touchingly how sad it is
for old people--for their own sakes entirely!--when they live too
long," said Paul Rathborne, who was present as usual.

"At least she does not devote much of her time and attention to him,"
responded Mrs. Dalton, "unless report greatly belies her."

"Why should she?" said Rathborne. "He has an expensive, highly-trained
nurse for his special service, besides a staff of servants. What could
she do for him, except worry him? Oh, no: it is not on account of any
demand upon her time or attention that she thinks he lives too long,
but because he keeps his fortune in his own hands, and will until death
relaxes his hold of it."

"How awful," exclaimed Helen, with a shudder, "to want anybody to
die! I cannot believe that Mrs. Singleton does. She seems so kind and
pleasant."

"And you think everyone must be kind and pleasant who seems so?" said
Rathborne, with a covert sneer. "My dear Helen, it will not do to judge
the world by yourself."

"Why not?" asked Helen, innocently. "Why should I not believe that
others are honest and sincere as well as myself?"

"Well, really there does not seem any reason on the surface, except
that experience proves it otherwise," he answered, with a laugh.

"I hope it may be long before experience proves it to me," said Helen.
"I can not bear to think badly of people. It seems to me that it would
break my heart to be forced to think badly of any one for whom I cared."

If one heart present felt a twinge of compunction at those words, there
was no sign of it; but Mrs. Dalton looked at her daughter with a sudden
glance of something like apprehension.

"You should not talk in such a way, Helen," she said. "A broken heart
is not a thing of which to speak lightly."

"I did not intend to speak lightly," answered Helen. "I meant what I
said very seriously. I do not think I could bear it."

"That is foolish," continued her mother. "We must bear whatever God
sends."

"I do not think Helen will ever have to bear a broken heart, or
anything like it," observed Marion. "I am very certain that she is made
for happy fortune."

"No one in the world, who lives for any length of time, can know
unbrokenly happy fortune," said Mrs. Dalton, gravely. "But I do not
think it well to discuss such personal subjects."

"Then we will discuss the rich old man who has a highly-trained nurse
and a staff of servants," said Marion, laughingly. "Tell me"--turning
to Rathborne--"what is his name?"

"Singleton," replied that gentleman. "Have you never heard of him? He
is a very rich man; and Tom Singleton--the husband of the lady you have
seen--hopes to inherit his wealth."

"He is his nearest relative?"

"Oh, I presume there are other nieces and nephews, but he is a favorite
of the old man."

"Have I not heard something of a disowned son?" asked Mrs. Dalton.

"A disowned son!" repeated Marion. "I did not know that people out of
novels--and even in novels it has gone out of fashion--ever disowned
their sons now."

"As I have heard the story," said Rathborne, "it is more a case of the
son disowning the father. He refused to comply with his father's wishes
in any respect, and finally broke away and left home, going off to
South America, I believe. He has not been heard of for a considerable
number of years, and Tom Singleton says there is every reason to
believe him dead. Of course the wish is father to the thought with
_him_, but others have told me the same thing."

"Perhaps his father drove him away by harshness, and remorse is what is
the matter with him," said Netta Morley, solemnly.

Rathborne laughed. "From my knowledge of old Mr. Singleton," he
replied, "I should not judge that remorse preyed upon him to any great
extent. The son, I have been told, was a wild, rebellious youth, whom
it was impossible to control--one of those unfortunate human beings who
seem born to go wrong, and whom no influence can restrain."

"Where was the poor boy's mother?" asked Mrs. Dalton.

"She died when he was very young. But, with all due deference to the
popular idea of a mother's influence, I think we see many cases in
which it fails altogether."

"Yes," said Mrs. Dalton. "But even if her influence fails, her patience
is more long-suffering than that of any one else, and her love is more
enduring. Perhaps this boy might not have been lost if his mother had
lived."

"If we begin with 'perhaps' we may imagine anything we please,"
remarked Rathborne, in atone which Marion had learned to understand as
expressing contempt for the opinion advanced.

"Without indulging in any imagination at all, so much as is known of
the Singletons is very interesting indeed," she said, in her clear,
fluent voice. "If I see any of them, I shall look at them with much
more attention from having heard this romantic story of a lost son and
a great fortune."

"I think you are very likely to see Mrs. Singleton," observed Netta.
"She spoke as if she desired to make your acquaintance."

"That is a great compliment--from her," said Helen. "What an impression
you must have made, Marion!"



CHAPTER V.


Events soon proved that Helen was right in saying that Marion must have
made an impression upon Mrs. Singleton. A few days later that lady's
card was brought to Mrs. Dalton, who regarded it with mild surprise,
saying, "Why, I have not called on her since her arrival this summer!"

"But you called on her last summer," said Helen; "and I suppose she has
some reason for coming without waiting for you to make another formal
visit. Pray find out what it is."

It was not at all difficult to discover Mrs. Singleton's reason for
the visit. She declared it frankly and at once. "I hear that you have
your charming daughter at home, Mrs. Dalton," she said; "and, knowing
her accomplishments, I want to secure her aid for some musical evenings
I am anxious to inaugurate. Mr. Singleton--my husband's uncle--finds
almost his only pleasure in music; so I desire very much that these
evenings shall be a success. Do you think Miss Morley will assist me?"

"I have no doubt she will be very glad to do so," answered Mrs. Dalton.

"I am delighted to hear it. And I am told that a very striking-looking
young lady, whom I saw in church with Miss Netta Morley last Sunday,
is your niece. Has she, also, taste and talent for music?"

"Oh! yes; she has a finer voice than Helen," said Mrs. Dalton, "and
sings much better."

"How very charming for me!" cried Mrs. Singleton. "May I have the
pleasure of seeing the young ladies? I should like to have their
definite promise to help me."

The young ladies were summoned, and very readily gave the promise asked
of them. They would be delighted, they said, to assist to the full
extent of their musical abilities. "And when," Helen asked, "will the
evenings begin?"

"Oh! at once," Mrs. Singleton replied. "On every Wednesday I hope to
gather all the musical talent of Scarborough into my drawing-room. I
shall send out my cards immediately to that effect. You don't know,
Miss Lynde,"--turning to Marion--"how pleased I am to find unexpectedly
such an addition as I am sure you will prove."

Marion smiled. "You are very kind," she said; "but I fear you are
taking too much for granted. I am not a good musician. I have never had
industry enough. Helen plays much better than I do."

"Oh, but, Marion, your voice is so fine!" cried Helen. "And everyone
likes singing best."

"_I_ do, I confess," said Mrs. Singleton. "And so, I think, does my
uncle. I have no doubt that you sing well, Miss Lynde."

"That is kind of you again," responded Marion; "but I must warn you
that Helen is not altogether a trustworthy witness. She always thinks
well of what her friends do, and poorly of what she does herself."

"I am willing to wait and let Mrs. Singleton decide whether or not I
think too well of what you do," observed Helen, with a gay little nod.

"Mrs. Singleton has no doubt what her decision will be," said that
lady. "Meanwhile, Miss Lynde, I wonder if we are not related in some
way? I am very certain that the Singletons have connections of your
name, and I fancy it must be your family."

"It is likely," answered Marion; "but matters of pedigree and
relationship have never interested me sufficiently for me to know
much about them. I regret that fact now," she continued, with unusual
graciousness; for she felt that she would not be sorry to be able to
claim relationship with people of such social position as these were.

"Oh!" said Mrs. Singleton, "my uncle will know all about it, I am sure.
Like most people of the old school, he thinks a great deal of such
things. And I hope I may prove right in my conjecture," she added, as
she rose to take leave.

"_What_ an impression you must have made upon her, Marion!" cried
Helen, as soon as they were alone. "Do you know that she is usually the
most supercilious woman, and so haughty that the idea of her claiming
relationship with any ordinary person seems incredible!"

"Do you consider me an ordinary person?" asked Marion, laughing, as she
walked toward a mirror. "I am exceedingly obliged to you."

"You know that I consider you a most extraordinary person," answered
Helen, with emphasis; "but Mrs. Singleton does not know yet what you
are in yourself, and--and you are not rich or--"

"Distinguished in any way," said Marion, as she paused. "There is no
doubt of that. As far as the outward accidents of life go, I am a very
insignificant person. But I shall not be so always, Helen. I am sure
of that; and people who know the world seem to have an instinct of it
also."

Helen looked at the fair face which, with such an air of conscious
power, regarded itself in the mirror. To her this ambition belonged
to the order of inexplicable things; yet she had a belief that it was
natural enough in Marion, and that it was fully justified by gifts
which she acknowledged without defining.

"No one could know you and not be sure of it," she said, in answer
to the last speech. "Of course you will fill some great place in the
world--we settled _that_ long ago. But I do think it strange that Mrs.
Singleton should recognize how remarkable you are--so soon."

"Perhaps it is an indication that other people will recognize it too,"
replied Marion, with a smile; while she said to herself that one other
person had recognized it already.

And, indeed, the recognition of that person had by this time become
sufficiently evident to everyone. In the innocence of her heart, Helen
rejoiced that her hero and oracle agreed with her in admiring the
cousin whom she admired so much. "I knew how it would be!" she said to
him, triumphantly. "You might be critical about other people, but I
knew you _must_ acknowledge that Marion is beyond criticism."

"That, however, is just what I don't acknowledge," Rathborne answered,
laughingly. "Miss Lynde is by no means beyond criticism; she is only a
beautiful and clever young lady, who has clearly determined to do the
best for herself without much regard for others."

"Marion has never been taught or accustomed to think of others," said
gentle Helen. "But I do not think she would harm any one for her own
advantage."

"Oh! no; she would only quietly walk over the person who was unlucky
enough to get in her way," remarked Rathborne. "And it is not I who
would blame her for that."

Helen looked at him reproachfully. "Now you are doing yourself
injustice," she said. "I understand that you do not mean anything of
the kind, but such remarks make others think badly of you."

"No doubt," he replied, carelessly; "but, my dear Helen, there is
nothing in the world of less importance to me than what others--the
class of others you mean--think of me."

"But it is of great importance to _me_," said Helen. "I cannot bear
that you should be misjudged by any one."

He laughed--people were right who said of Rathborne that he had not
a pleasant laugh--as he replied, "Who can say when one is misjudged?
Don't trouble yourself about that. As long as you are satisfied with
me, I can snap my fingers at the rest of the world."

"You know how well I am satisfied," said Helen.

"Yes, I know," he answered, with a short thrill of compunction. "I am
not all you think me, Helen. The 'others,' whose opinion makes you
indignant, are nearer right than you are, if the truth were known, I
suspect."

"You shall not say such things!" cried Helen. "There is nothing I could
want changed in you, except"--her face fell a little--"except your
religion. If you were only a Catholic I should be perfectly happy."

Rathborne smiled a little, as one would at the folly of a child. "I a
Catholic!" he said. "My imagination is not strong enough to fancy that.
No, my dear little Helen; you must be content with me as I am."

"Have you read the book I gave you--which you promised to read?" asked
Helen, wistfully.

"I glanced into it--because I promised you," he answered; "but I found
little of interest, and nothing to change my convictions. Do not
indulge the hope that they ever will be changed. Let us understand each
other on that point from the first. You are at liberty to believe and
practice what you like, and I claim the same liberty for myself. Is not
that just?"

"I--suppose so," answered Helen, whose forte was not controversy, and
whose eyes were full of tears. "But surely you wish to believe and
practice the truth?"

Rathborne shrugged his shoulders. "What is truth?" he said. "There is
ancient and high authority for that question, and I don't know that it
has ever been answered satisfactorily. I shall not endeavor to begin to
answer it. And I shall not take an answer from the lips of a priest.
Now let us change the subject."

The subject was changed, but poor Helen's heart was heavier than
before it was begun. Whenever she did not talk to Rathborne on the
subject of religion, she indulged a hope of his conversion, founded on
her own ardent desire; but whenever she timidly opened the subject,
she felt the hopelessness of moving this nature so deeply rooted in
self-opinion, spiritual indifference, and worldly interests. At such
times her poor little heart had its first taste of bitterness of
life,--that bitterness which is so largely made up of the jarring of
different natures and of irreconcilable desires.

Meanwhile some irreconcilable desires had begun to disturb the even
current of Rathborne's carefully-planned life. For years he had seen
very clearly what he meant to do--first to marry Helen, in order to
secure the financial independence which her fortune would give; and
then to climb, by certain well-marked steps, the ladder of professional
and political eminence. He had never hesitated or wavered for an
instant in this plan, neither had any obstacle arisen in his way.
Helen had yielded to his influence, her mother's opposition was easily
overcome, his professional success was all that he could desire, and
already he was known as a man certain to gain the coveted prizes of
public life.

But now into this well-ordered and orderly existence a distraction
came. A beautiful, imperious, ambitious woman suddenly appeared in
his path, and the strongest temptation of his life assailed him--the
temptation to give up Helen and her fortune for Marion and Marion's
striking gifts. "What might not a man accomplish with such a brilliant
and ambitious spirit to aid his own ambition!" he said to himself, and
so felt the temptation grow daily stronger. Yet he was well aware that
in giving up Helen, he would give up more than her affection (which he
did not count at all), and her fortune (which he counted very heavily):
he would give up also a large and influential family connection, and
the respect of every person of his acquaintance whose respect was worth
most to him. He felt, however, that he might make up his mind to the
last, if it were all; for he was too cynical and had too thorough a
knowledge of the world not to know that people do not long remember
anything to the disadvantage of a successful man. But to resign Helen's
fortune, after the careful work of years to secure it, was something
more difficult to him; and he had by no means made up his mind to do so
when the above conversation took place.

It was the day of Mrs. Singleton's _musicale_; and presently Rathborne,
who found conversation tiresome to maintain, said as he rose to go:
"Shall I accompany you this evening? Of course I have had a card like
everyone else."

"Oh! yes; come by all means," replied Helen. "Mamma is going with us,
and Netta and Frank are to call by; but it is always pleasant to have
_you_."

"It is not pleasant to me, however, to form one of a caravan," he said,
with some impatience. "If I am to accompany you, can you not dispense
with Miss Morley and her brother?"

"I hardly like to tell them not to come; and why should you object to
them? It is pleasant for us all to go together."

"Do you think so?" said Rathborne, with the sneer which came so readily
to his lip. Some words of Marion's recurred to his mind. "Helen is so
gregarious and so easily pleased," that young lady had said, "that
I think she would like to live always with a mob of people." But for
the memory of this speech he might not have felt so irritated with a
harmless and amiable love of companionship; but the contempt which
dictated the words found a ready echo in his own mind.

"If your cousins are going to accompany you, there is no need for
me," he observed; "so I will content myself with meeting you at Mrs.
Singleton's. Good-morning!"

"Oh, I am sorry!" said Helen, with quick regret. "Netta and Frank would
think it very strange, else I would send and ask them not to come--"

"Not on my account, I beg," responded Rathborne. "I am very well
satisfied with matters as they are. It gives me the opportunity of
choosing my own time to appear."

"Don't be too late," said Helen. "You know that Marion and I are both
going to sing; and Marion, I am sure, will do her best."

"And you also, I hope."

She shook her head. "I am not like Marion. A public performance
unnerves me, but it always puts her at her best. You will hear to-night
how much better she will sing for a number of people than she has ever
sung for a small circle."

"I shall certainly hear," said Rathborne. "Tell Miss Lynde that I am
preparing myself to be electrified."

Perhaps he was aware in uttering these words that Miss Lynde had
appeared in the open door behind him. At least there was no surprise
on his face, but a great deal of satisfaction, when she came forward,
saying:--

"And why, pray, Mr. Rathborne, should you be preparing yourself to be
electrified?"

"Because Helen has just been telling me how much you are inspired by an
audience," he answered; "and you are to have all Scarborough for your
audience."

She made a gesture of indifference. "Give me credit," she said,
"for caring a little more for the quality than the mere quantity of
appreciation. 'All Scarborough' does not mean a great deal to me, I
assure you."

"Such as it is, though, it will be at your feet," he said. "Do not
scorn it."

"I shall certainly wait until it is at my feet to begin to do so," she
answered, with a laugh.

"It is not good policy to scorn even that which is at your feet," he
said. "You may need it some day."

"Be sure that I have no inclination to scorn any kindness that comes in
my way," she observed, quickly. "You do me injustice if you believe me
capable of that."

"Then you will not scorn your audience to-night," he answered; "for I
am sure you will meet nothing but kindness from it."



CHAPTER VI.


Never was a prophecy better fulfilled than that of Rathborne; for
no one of the large company assembled in Mrs. Singleton's spacious
drawing-room but felt prepared to admire and approve the beautiful
young stranger, who was led to the piano by her host when the musical
programme was about half over. Everybody had an instinct that the star
of the evening had now appeared--that one who looked so proud and
confident was not likely to entertain them with a mediocre performance.
And, indeed, Marion, who had professed to scorn "all Scarborough,"
was sufficiently inspired by her audience to feel capable of doing
her best. As the first notes of the accompaniment were struck, she
threw back her head like one who answers to a challenge; and when she
opened her lips such a tide of melody rose, such crystal-clear notes,
such a flood of pure, sweet sound, that even the lowest undertone of
conversation stopped, and people held their breath to listen.

Rathborne, who had been late in arriving, and who stood just outside
one of the open windows, conveniently sheltered from observation,
smiled to himself as he watched the scene within. It was one which
gave him as much pleasure as his nature was capable of feeling. That
beautiful, stately figure beside the piano, with its regal bearing and
crown of red-gold hair, deserved to be the center of all attention; and
suited his own taste so exactly that he did not even perceive Helen's
sweet, smiling face near by. It did not surprise him that Marion sang
as he had never heard her sing before. He had read her character
accurately enough, by the light of his own, to feel sure that she would
never fail when occasion called for display.

His glance swept around the apartment, taking in the expressions
of the various faces, and finally fastening on one that was partly
sheltered behind a curtain at the end of the room. This curtain fell
between the drawing-room and a smaller apartment opening from it. Now
and then during the course of the evening a few of the oldest and
most distinguished of Mrs. Singleton's guests were admitted to the
smaller apartment, where it was understood that "old Mr. Singleton"
was established to listen to the music at his ease. It must have been
very much at his ease that he listened; for he had given no sign of
his presence or appreciation until now, when--as if Marion's clear,
ringing notes had been a spell--Rathborne observed at the opening of
the curtain a thin face, with a high, aquiline nose and white moustache.

Mrs. Singleton also observed it; and as soon as the song was ended,
leaving others to crowd around the singer and express their admiration,
she walked to the curtained arch and exchanged a few words with the
person sheltered behind it. Then, turning, she crossed the room and
deftly made her way to Marion's side.

"My dear Miss Lynde," she exclaimed, "what a pleasure you have given
us! What a delight to hear such a voice as yours! My uncle is charmed,
and he begs that you will sing again. Of course we all beg that you
will, but I give _his_ request first, because it is a very great
compliment--from him."

It was certainly a compliment which he had paid no one else; and Marion
smiled with a sense of triumph. She preserved due modesty of manner
and appearance, however, as she said: "I am exceedingly glad that I
have been able to give pleasure to Mr. Singleton; perhaps there is some
special song that he would like to hear?"

"Oh! I am sure he will like to hear anything that you sing," replied
Mrs. Singleton, who did not wish to delay the amusement of the evening
long enough to make inquiry.

So Marion sang again, with increased self-confidence and success; and
the thin, keen face appeared again at the opening of the curtains, as
if looking were no less a pleasure than listening.

But, this song over, Mrs. Singleton was too wise a hostess to encourage
any request for a third. "We must not ask too much of Miss Lynde's
kindness," she said. "Later in the evening, perhaps she will sing for
us again; and we must be reasonable. Miss Royston is going to play for
us now."

Miss Royston, a tall, angular young lady, whose elbows seemed unduly
developed, took her seat on the piano-stool, struck a few crashing
cords, and began a sonata. Being fresh from a conservatory of music,
and having a severely classical taste, she was understood to be a very
fine musician--a fact taken on trust by most of those who composed
her present audience; but very soon a conversational murmur began to
be heard; those who were near windows slipped out on the veranda "to
enjoy the cool air while they listened," and there was no longer any
glimpse of the aquiline nose and white moustache at the opening of the
_portières_.

Marion, who had not been conscious of this brief, partial appearance
of the invalid recluse, for whose amusement the entertainment had been
arranged, whispered to Helen, by whom she sat down: "I wonder how Mr.
Singleton likes this?"

"Not as well as your singing, I am sure," answered Helen, in the same
tone; "for all the time you were singing he was looking at you from
behind those curtains yonder."

"Was he indeed?" said Marion. She looked at the now closed,
unresponsive curtains with a quick glance of interest. "What does he
look like? I wish I had seen him."

"When you sing again, glance over there and you will certainly be
gratified," said Helen. "But here comes Paul at last. He has missed
your singing; is not that too bad?"

"I doubt very much if he considers it so," replied Marion. "He has
heard me several times and never expressed any particular pleasure,
that I remember."

"That is Paul's way," said Helen, eagerly. "It is hard to tell what he
feels by what he expresses. He admires your voice very much. I am sure
of that."

"What is it you are so sure of, Helen?" asked Rathborne, who had drawn
near enough to hear the last words through the crash of the piano.

"That you are very sorry not to have heard Marion's singing," answered
Helen, looking up into his face with a smile.

"I should certainly have been very sorry if I had not heard it," he
said; "but, as it happens, I had that pleasure. And it was just as I
expected," he added, turning to Marion. "You sang as I never heard you
sing before. An audience inspires you--an occasion calls forth all your
power."

She laughed softly. "Perhaps it was not the audience or the occasion so
much as the consciousness of Mr. Singleton's presence, and a desire to
evoke some sign of interest from a critic who buries himself in silence
behind drawn curtains."

"Well, if so, you evoked it. I congratulate you upon that."

"Helen was just telling me that he vouchsafed a glimpse of himself
during my song. I wish I had seen him. I have a curiosity to know what
he is like."

"Like a very ordinary old man," observed Rathborne, carelessly. "But
here comes Mrs. Singleton--to tell us, perhaps, that we should not be
talking while the music is going on."

So far from that, Mrs. Singleton began at once to talk herself, in a
discreetly lowered tone. "Miss Lynde," she said, "I hope you have no
objection to making the acquaintance of my uncle? He has asked me to
bring you in to see him. He is an old man, you know, and an invalid, so
you will excuse his not coming to see _you_."

"I shall be delighted to go to him," answered Marion, with ready
courtesy and grace.

So the entire company were surprised and interested to see
their hostess leading the young stranger across the room to the
jealously-guarded inner apartment where Mr. Singleton was secluded. All
eyes followed them curiously, and lingered on the curtains, which Mrs.
Singleton held back for a moment while Marion passed within, and then
let fall.

Marion's own curiosity and gratification were equally balanced. It was
like a public triumph to be led in this manner behind these curtains,
which had opened for no other of the performers of the evening.
Evidently this rich and presumably fastidious old man was to be
included in the number of those who recognized her to be something more
than ordinary. The instant that the _portières_ were drawn back, she
looked eagerly into the apartment thus revealed.

It was smaller than the drawing-room behind her, and was luxuriously
furnished. The light which filled it was softly toned and shaded, but
quite brilliant enough to show all the variety of silken-covered chairs
and couches, the richly-blended tints of Eastern rugs, the carved
tables and stands covered with books and papers. Sunk in the depths
of one of the easiest of these easy-chairs was a small, slight man;
his wasted face, with its high, distinct features, snowy hair, and
moustache, thrown into relief against the back of the chair on which
he leaned. His hands, which rested on its arms, were like pieces of
delicate ivory carving, and his whole appearance spoke as distinctly of
refinement as of ill health. Seated opposite him was an old gentleman,
whose robust aspect was in strong contrast with his own, and who was
talking in a tone which showed that he took no heed of the music in the
next room.

He paused and rose at sight of the two ladies; but Mr. Singleton did
not stir, though Marion felt his bright, keen eyes fastened on her at
once. She followed her hostess, who went forward to his chair.

"Here is Miss Lynde, who has come to see you, uncle," said that lady.

"It is very kind of Miss Lynde," replied Mr. Singleton, with the air
of the old school--that air which a younger generation has lost and
forgotten. He held out his hand, and, when Marion laid her own in
it, looked at her with an admiration to which she had always been
accustomed, and an evident pleasure in the contemplation of so much
beauty. "Will you sit down?" he said, after a moment, indicating a low
chair by his side. "I want you to tell me where you learned to sing so
well."

"Where do the birds learn?" asked Marion, smiling. "I have sung like
the birds as long as I can remember; although, of course, I have had
some teaching. Not a great deal, however."

"It is a pity that you should not have more," he said. "Your voice, if
fully trained, would be magnificent. But, as it is, you sing remarkably
well; you have no vices of style, and you have given me a great deal of
pleasure."

"I am very glad to have given you pleasure," answered Marion, with an
air of gracious sincerity. "Mrs. Singleton has told me that you are
very fond of music."

He made a slight grimace. "I am very fond of good music," he said; "but
I do not hear a great deal of it from amateurs. When Anna told me of
the entertainment she had arranged, I had little idea of hearing such
a voice as yours."

Marion laughed. "While I was singing," she said, "I had something of
the feeling which I imagine the singers must have who are obliged now
and then to go through an opera in an empty theater, for the sole
benefit of the King of Bavaria, who is invisible in his box."

"But you had plenty of visible listeners besides the invisible one,"
said Mr. Singleton.

"I thought nothing of them," she answered. "I was singing to _you_
altogether, and now I feel as if I had been summoned to the royal box
to be complimented."

There was a playfulness in the words which deprived them of any
appearance of flattery, yet it was evident that Mr. Singleton was not
ill-pleased at being compared to royalty--even such eccentric royalty
as that of the then living King of Bavaria.

"To carry out the comparison," he said, smiling, "I ought to have
a diamond bracelet to clasp on your arm. Such are the substantial
compliments of royalty. But, instead, I am going to ask a favor of
you--a very great favor. Will you come some time and sing to me alone?
I promise you that I will not be invisible on that occasion."

"I shall be very happy to do so," she answered, promptly. "It will be a
real pleasure to myself. Tell me when I shall come."

"That must be settled hereafter. My health, and consequently my state
of feeling, is very uncertain. Sometimes even music jars on me. Anna
shall see you and arrange it."

Mrs. Singleton, hearing her name, turned from a conversation which she
had been maintaining with the gentleman who was the other occupant of
the room.

"What is it that I am to arrange?" she asked. "That Miss Lynde will
come sometime and sing to us alone? Oh, that will be charming! But now
I must go back to my duties, for I think I hear the sonata ending. Will
you come with me?" she said to Marion.

"If my audience is ended," replied Marion, with a pretty smile, to Mr.
Singleton.

"Your audience is not ended, if you do not mind remaining with an old
man for a little while," he answered. "Anna can return or send for you
when she wants you to entertain her guests again. Meanwhile I want you
to entertain _me_."

"Before I go, then, I will introduce General Butler, and charge him
to bring you back presently," said Mrs. Singleton, after which she
disappeared.

General Butler, no less pleased than his friend with the charm of a
beautiful face, sat down again, and said to Marion: "Your name is very
familiar to me, Miss Lynde. I wonder if you are not a daughter of
Herbert Lynde, who was killed at Seven Pines?"

"Yes," answered Marion, "I am his daughter, and always glad to meet his
old friends. You knew him, then?"

"Oh! very well. He was in my brigade, and one of the bravest men I ever
saw. I thought there was something familiar to me in your face as well
as in your name. You are very like him."

"Herbert Lynde!" repeated Mr. Singleton. "If that was your father's
name, my niece was right in thinking that there might be some
relationship between us. The Singletons and those Lyndes have
intermarried more than once. I hope that you do not object to
acknowledging a distant link of cousinship with us?"

"So far from objecting, I am delighted to hear of it," answered Marion.
"Who would not be delighted to find such cousins?"

There was something a little sad as well as ironic in the smile with
which Mr. Singleton heard these words, as he extended his hand and laid
it on hers.

"That sounds very cordial and sincere," he said. "I hope you may never
find reason to qualify your delight. I confess I am glad to find that
we are not altogether strangers. It gives me a faint, shadowy claim on
your kind offices. I am not a man whom many things please. But you have
pleased me, and I shall like to see you again."

"I shall like to come," answered Marion, "for my own pleasure as well
as for yours. I am not easily pleased either," she added, with a smile;
"so you must draw the inference."

"It is one I should like to be able to draw also," observed General
Butler. "This is really too narrow. I cannot claim relationship, Miss
Lynde; but remember I am an old friend of your family."

"Of mine, too, then," said Marion, holding out her hand to him. As he
bent over it with a flattered air, she had a triumphant sense that it
was a conclusive test of her power to be able to charm and influence
men of the world and of mature experience like these.



CHAPTER VII.


"Well, Marion," said Helen, "now that you have seen Mr. Singleton, what
do you think of him?"

They were walking home through the soft, moonlit summer night when this
question was asked; and Marion answered, lightly: "I find him charming.
He is refined, fastidious, has seen a great deal of the world, and is
altogether a man after my own taste."

"Then," said Frank Morley, who was walking by her side, "a man after
your own taste must be a heartless valetudinarian; for that is what Mr.
Singleton has the credit of being."

"As it chances," said Marion, "neither his heartlessness nor his
valetudinarianism concerns me in the least--granting that they exist.
But I confess to a doubt on that point. Are you very intimately
acquainted with him, Mr. Morley?"

Had the moonlight been brighter, it might have been perceived that
young Morley flushed at the tone of the question. "No," he answered; "I
have no acquaintance with him at all. But that is the opinion of every
one."

"The opinion of 'everyone' has very little weight with me," said
Marion. "I prefer my own."

"You are quite right to distrust an uncharitable opinion, my dear
Marion," interposed Mrs. Dalton's quiet voice. "The fact of its being
general is no reason for crediting it. People are always quicker to
believe evil than good, I am sorry to say."

"I suppose that is meant for me," said Frank Morley. "But really I am
not inclined, on general principles, to believe evil sooner than good.
I do think, however, that some weight is to be given to a _consensus_
of public opinion."

"What a large word!" cried Helen, laughing, while Rathborne observed,
with his familiar sneer:--

"A word which represents a large fact also, but a fact that must be
based on knowledge in order to have any value. Now, the public opinion
of Scarborough has no knowledge at all of Mr. Singleton. Therefore its
decision about him has no value."

"I am glad to hear it," said Marion; "for I do not believe that he is
either heartless or a valetudinarian."

"I suppose he made himself agreeable to _you_," said young Morley.

"Very agreeable," she answered, coolly. "He informed me that we are
related, and he asked me to come and sing for him alone."

"I congratulate you on a triumph, then," said Rathborne; "for he is a
most critical person, who likes few things and tolerates few people."

"So I judged," she answered; "and I felt flattered accordingly."

"How frightened I should have been of him!" exclaimed Helen. "I am very
glad that my singing was not worthy of his notice!"

There was a general laugh at this, as they paused at Mrs. Dalton's
gate, where good-nights were exchanged. "I will see you to the house,"
said Rathborne, when his aunt declared that in the soft, bright
moonlight there was no need for any one to accompany them farther; he
opened the gate and went in, while the Morleys walked off.

"Frank," said Miss Morley, "what is the reason that you so often speak
to Miss Lynde in a manner that sounds disagreeable and sarcastic? I
don't think it is well-bred, and I never knew you guilty of speaking so
to any one before."

"I never had such cause before," answered Frank. "It is the tone Miss
Lynde habitually employs to _me_. You will say, perhaps, that is no
excuse, but at least you will admit that it is a provocation."

"A provocation you ought to resist," said the young lady. "I am really
ashamed of you? What is the reason that you positively seem to dislike
each other?"

"Miss Lynde appears to think that I am a person who needs to be kept in
his place by severe snubbing," replied the young man; "and I think that
she is the most vain and conceited girl I ever encountered. I don't
trust her an inch; and if there is not something very like a flirtation
going on between Rathborne and herself, I'm mistaken."

"How can you say such a thing! Why, Paul Rathborne is as good as
engaged to Helen; and, of course, her cousin knows it."

"That's neither here nor there. Whatever she knows or doesn't know, you
have only to see them together to observe how well they understand each
other. As for Rathborne, no treachery would surprise me in him."

"Frank, I am really shocked at you!" cried his sister. "You have let
prejudice run away with your judgment. You dislike Paul Rathborne
until you are ready to suspect him of anything. Of course he admires
Miss Lynde--everyone does except yourself,--but that is no reason for
believing that he would be treacherous to Helen. And Miss Lynde's
manner is the same to him as to everyone, so far as I have observed."

"As far as you have observed may not be very far," said Frank, with
brotherly candor. "Wait and see--that is all."

"I think _you_ ought to wait and see before you make such charges,"
returned Miss Morley. "You always disliked Paul Rathborne, and now you
dislike Miss Lynde, so you suspect them both of very unworthy conduct.
It shows how we ought to guard against disliking people, since to do so
leads at last to unjust judgments."

"Very fine moralizing," remarked the young man; "but not at all
applicable in this case, since I don't suspect them because I dislike
them, but I dislike them because I suspect them. There's all the
difference in the world in that."

"It amounts to the same thing with you, I fancy," answered his
skeptical sister. "But I hope that at least you will keep your
suspicions to yourself. If you breathed them to Helen--"

"Do you think I would!" he said, indignantly. "What good could it do?
Helen will believe nothing against any one she loves. And she does love
Rathborne--confound him!"

"Frank, you are really growing so uncharitable that it distresses me
to hear you talk," said his sister, solemnly.

Frank only responded by a laugh compounded of scorn and vexed
amusement; but in his heart he knew that it was true--that he was
growing uncharitable, and that he disliked Rathborne so much that he
was ready to believe any ill of him. It was this dislike which had
sharpened his eyes to perceive what that astute gentleman thought he
was concealing from every one--the fact of the strong attraction which
Marion had for him; and whoever else that fact might surprise, it
did not surprise young Morley in the least. He had never believed in
the disinterestedness of Rathborne's affection for Helen, and it had
enraged him to perceive the trust with which his cousin gave her heart
to a man unworthy of it. These sentiments had prepared him to observe
any failure in the conduct of that man, and there had been a gratified
sense of the justification of his own judgment when he perceived
what was so far hidden from everyone else except Rathborne himself
and--Marion.

For Marion was fully alive to the admiration with which Rathborne
regarded her; but it is only justice to say that no thought of
treachery to Helen was ever in _her_ mind. Many and great as her
faults might be, they were not of a mean order. By towering ambition
and arrogant pride, she might fall into grievous error, but hardly
into baseness--at least not by premeditation. But it is hard to
say at exactly what milestone we will stop on the road of seeking
the gratification and interest of self. It pleased her to see that
Rathborne regarded her in a very different manner from that in which
he regarded any other woman with whom she saw him associating; the
unconscious homage of his air when he approached her, of his tone when
he addressed her, the choice of his subjects when he talked to her
alone, were all like incense to her vanity; and it was this incense
which she liked, rather than the man. Concerning the latter, she had
not changed her first opinion, which did not differ very widely from
that of Mr. Frank Morley.

The day after Mrs. Singleton's evening, Helen said to her cousin: "I
wish so much, Marion, that you would sometimes sing in our choir! Miss
Grady, our organist, said to me last night that she would be so glad if
you would, and I promised to ask you."

"Why, certainly," replied Marion, with ready assent; "I shall be very
glad to do so whenever you like. Catholic music is so beautiful that it
is a pleasure to sing it; but I don't know much of it."

"You know that lovely '_Ave Maria_' you used to sing at the convent."

"Gounod's? Oh, yes! But when can I sing that?"

"At the Offertory in the Mass. I know Miss Grady will be delighted, for
she has no really good voice. Fancy, mine is her best!"

"How modest you are!" said Marion, smiling. "Very well, then, I will
sing the '_Ave Maria_' next Sunday with a great deal of pleasure, if
your organist likes, and your priest does not object to a Protestant
voice."

"He is not likely to do that; but I thought you always declared that
you are not a Protestant."

"I suppose one must be classed as a Protestant, according to the strict
sense of the term, when one is not a Catholic--and that I am not."

"But you may be some day."

"Nothing is more unlikely. Your religion is too exacting: it puts one's
whole life in bondage. Now, I want to be free."

"Not free to do wrong, Marion! And the only bondage which the Catholic
Church lays upon people is to forbid their doing what is wrong."

"I must be free to judge for myself what _is_ wrong," returned Marion,
with a haughty gesture of her head. "But we had better not talk of
this, Helen. We do not think alike, and I do not wish to say anything
disagreeable to you."

"Nor I to you," said Helen; "and indeed I have no talent for argument.
One needs Claire for that. Dear Claire! how I wish she were here!"

"So do I," said Marion; "but not for purposes of argument, I confess."

Glad to do something to please her aunt and cousin, Marion went
willingly the next Sunday to the Catholic church; and, having already
seen the organist--a pleasant young music teacher--accompanied Helen
into the choir-loft. Here, sitting quietly in a corner during the first
part of the Mass, she had time to contrast the scene before her with
that which she had witnessed during the other Sundays of her stay in
Scarborough. The first thing which struck her was the poverty of the
small building, as compared with the luxury and beauty of the Episcopal
place of worship. Here were no finely-carved and polished woods; but
plain, plastered walls, relieved from bareness only by the pictures
which told in simple black and white the woful story of the Cross.
The sound of moving feet and scraping benches on the uncovered floor
jarred on her nerves after the subdued quiet, which was the result of
carpeted aisles and pews; while the appearance of the congregation
spoke plainly of humble, hard-working lives. No suggestion of social
distinction and elegance was here. But in the sanctuary there was
something of beauty to please even her æsthetic eye.

The small altar was beautifully dressed with freshly-cut flowers,
draped with spotless linen and fine lace, and brilliant with light
of wax tapers. Evidently Helen's careful hand and convent-bred taste
had been there, even as Helen's pure, sweet, young voice was even now
singing the angelic words of the "_Gloria_." The priest, who was a pale
and rather insignificant-looking man, certainly lacked the refined
and scholarly air of the handsome young clergyman with whom Marion
instinctively compared him; but there was an assured dignity in his
air and gestures, as he stood at the altar, which she was too keen an
observer not to perceive, and remember that the other had lacked.

In the midst of these mingled thoughts and impressions--thoughts and
impressions wherein devotion had no place--she was suddenly summoned to
sing. She took her place with the self-possession which never failed
her, and began that beautiful strain to which Gounod has set the sacred
words of the "_Ave Maria_." There were not many musically trained ears
or critically trained tastes among the congregation below, but even
they turned instinctively to see what voice was rising with such divine
melody toward heaven. Over and over again Marion had sung these words
without thinking of their meaning, but she had never before sung them
in the Mass; and now something in the hush of the stillness around
her, in the reverence of the silent people, in the solemn, stately
movements of the priest and the uplifting of the chalice, seemed to
fill her with a consciousness that she, too, was uttering a prayer--a
prayer of such ancient and holy origin that careless lips should fear
to speak it.

"_Sancta Maria, Mater Dei!_"--Never before had the wonder, the majesty,
the awfulness of the Name struck her as it struck her now, when she
was, as it were, the mouthpiece for all the believing hearts that so
called the Blessed Maid of Israel. "_Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc
et in hora mortis nostræ._" Her voice sank over the last words with a
strange sense of their meaning. The hour of our death! It would come to
her, too, that hour--a sudden, intense realization of the fact seemed
to run through her veins like ice,--and when it came, would it not be
well to have appealed in earnest to Her who stood by the Cross, and was
and is eternally the Mother of God?

Such a thought, such a question was new to this proud and worldly
spirit. Why it came to her at this moment is one of the miracles of
God's grace. It was not destined to make any lasting impression; but
for the time it was strong enough to cause her, when the hymn was
ended, to go and kneel down in the place she had left; while from her
heart rose the appeal which only her lips had uttered a moment before,
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me now and at the hour of my death."

It gratified Helen to observe that Marion knelt with apparent
devoutness during the solemn portion of the Mass; but when they
came out of church, and she turned with a smile to congratulate her
on her singing, she was struck by the paleness and gravity of the
beautiful face. "What is the matter?" she asked, quickly. "Has anything
displeased you?"

"Displeased me!" said Marion, with a start of surprise. "No; why should
you think so?"

"You look so grave."

"Do I? Perhaps I am displeased with myself, then. I did not know before
that I was impressionable, and I find that I am. That vexes me. I
detest impressionable people; I detest above all to feel that I myself
am at the mercy of outward influences."

Helen looked all the wonder that she felt. "I don't understand what you
mean." she said. "How have you found out that you are impressionable--I
mean particularly so?"

Marion smiled slightly. "I am afraid you would not understand if
I told you," she replied. "Or you would misunderstand, which is
worse. But don't ask me to go to your church again, Helen. Something
there--something about the services--affects me in a way I don't
like. Nothing I should dislike so much as to become a mere emotional,
susceptible creature; and I feel there as if I might."

"But, Marion," exclaimed Helen, half-shocked, half-eager, "surely our
feelings are given, like everything else, to lead us to God! And, O
Marion! how can you turn away from what may be the grace of God? For
remember, _God Himself_ was on the altar to-day!"

She uttered the last sentence in tones of reverent awe; but Marion
frowned impatiently.

"It was because I knew you would not understand that I did not want
to speak," she said. "What I am talking of is a mere matter of
susceptibility to outward influences. It is disagreeable to me, and I
do not wish to subject myself to it--that is all. I am never troubled
in that way at the Episcopal services," she added, more lightly. "I
shall go there in future."



CHAPTER VIII.


It was not very long before Marion's promise to Mr. Singleton was
recalled to her mind--if, indeed, that could be said to be recalled
which had never been forgotten. For she had not exaggerated in saying
that this old man, with his air of the world, with his keen, critical
glance, and the mingled imperativeness and courtliness of his manner,
was after her own taste. His evident admiration and appreciation of
herself no doubt led greatly to this result; for had she been treated
as he was in the habit of treating people whom he did not like, there
could hardly have been much liking on her side. But since his approval
of _her_ was very manifest, her approval of _him_ was not less so; and
was, moreover, sharpened by the restless ambition which made her look
eagerly for any opening by which she might gain her desired ends.

She was glad, therefore, to receive one morning a note from Mrs.
Singleton, begging to know if that day would suit her for the
fulfillment of her promise to sing for Mr. Singleton alone. "I should
have asked _you_ to name the day," the note went on, "but for the fact
that there are only certain days on which my uncle feels equal to the
exertion of seeing any one; and, of course, he wishes to see as well
as to hear you. If you have no other engagement for this afternoon,
will you, then, gratify him by coming at five o'clock? And I hope to
keep you to spend the evening with me."

Had any engagement interfered with the proposed appointment, there
is no doubt that Marion would have broken it like a thread; but she
was, happily, free from such a necessity, and had only to tell Mrs.
Singleton that she would accept her invitation for the afternoon with
pleasure. So, at the time appointed, her aunt's carriage dropped her at
the door of the house which the Singletons had taken for the season.
It was by far the handsomest house in Scarborough--wide, spacious,
stately, with nobly proportioned rooms, and halls that spoke eloquently
of the wealth that had planned them. It was a wealth that had vanished
now, as the house had passed out of the possession of those who built
it; but the fine old place served admirably as a setting for the
Singleton establishment, which was formed on a very lavish scale.

When Marion was shown into the drawing room, she found Mr. Singleton
there, established in a deep easy-chair near the piano, with an open
newspaper before him. He laid it on his knee when she entered, and held
out his hand.

"You will excuse my keeping my seat," he said, as she came toward
him. "I rise with great difficulty, owing to obstinate sciatica, and
never without assistance. But you must believe that I appreciate your
kindness in coming."

"I am very glad to come," she said, with cordial sincerity. "I told you
that it would be a pleasure to me. I like to sing, especially to one
who knows what good singing is; and whose praise, therefore, has value."

He smiled, evidently well pleased. "And how do you know," he said,
"that my praise has that value?"

"One can tell such things very quickly," she replied. "I think I should
have known that you possessed musical culture even if I had not heard
so."

"I have a good deal of musical knowledge, at least," he said. "In my
youth I lived much abroad, and I have heard all the great singers of
the world. It has been a passion with me, and I have missed nothing
else so much during these later years of invalidism. You can judge,
therefore, whether or not it is a pleasure to hear such a voice as
yours."

"I know that my voice is good," said Marion; "but I also know how much
it lacks cultivation. I fear that must jar on you, since you have heard
so many great singers."

"No, it does not jar on me, because you have no bad tricks. You sing
simply and naturally, with wonderful sweetness and power. Sing now, and
afterward I will take the liberty of asking you some questions about
yourself."

Marion went to the piano, and, animated by the last words, sang as
well as she could possibly have sung for a much larger audience. In
the lofty, wide room she let out the full power of her splendid voice
with an ease, a total absence of effort, which delighted her listener.
Lying back in his deep chair while song followed song, and marking
how clear and true every note rang, his interest in the singer grew;
and he began to rouse a little from the state of indifferent egoism
which was normal with him, to consider what would be the future of this
girl, whom nature had so richly endowed. Perhaps curiosity had a part
in the interest; at least when Marion had sung for some time, he said
suddenly:--

"That is enough for the present. I must not be unreasonable, and I must
not let you strain your voice. Will you come now and talk to me for a
while?"

"Willingly," she answered, rising from the instrument with a smile.
"But you must remember that it does not follow that because I can
entertain you by singing I can also entertain you by talking."

"I think it will follow," he said. "You talk, if not as well as you
sing--for that would be very extraordinary--at least well enough to
make me desire to listen to you. And in order to make you appreciate
that, I must tell you that the talking of most people bores me
intolerably."

"Are there any signs by which one can tell when one begins to bore
you?" asked Marion, sitting down on a low chair in front of him.
"Because I should like to cease as soon as that point is reached."

He smiled, all the lines of his face relaxing as he looked at her.
In fact, he found the charm of her beauty almost as great as that of
her voice. Had it been an unintellectual beauty, he would have cared
nothing for it; but the flash of that indescribable quality which the
French call _esprit_, the quickness and readiness of her speech, the
grace of her manner,--all pleased and interested the man, who was not
easily pleased or interested.

"I do not believe there is any danger of your ever reaching that
point," he said. "And I think you are sure of it yourself. You have no
fear of boring any one; for you know the thing is impossible."

"You are very kind," she answered. "But I have never observed that the
people who bore one are at all afraid of doing it. So, lack of fear
would not prove exemption from the possibility. But I flatter myself
that I have penetration enough to detect the first sign, and I am
certain that I would not need to detect the second."

"Any one who saw you would be certain of that," he said, regarding
her intently. "As it chances, however, it may be I who will prove the
bore; for I am going to claim one of the privileges of an old man, and
ask you some questions about yourself; or, to spare me the trouble of
asking the question, I should like for you to tell me something about
your life, if you have no objection."

"Not the slightest," replied Marion; "indeed your interest flatters me.
But I am sorry to say that there is very little to tell. You see, my
life is only beginning."

"True. You have just left school, I believe?"

"Only a few weeks ago. I came then with my cousin from the convent,
where I had spent two years."

"You are not a Roman Catholic, I hope?"

"Oh! no, certainly not." It occurred to her, as she spoke, that if he
should ask what she was, she would not be prepared with so ready an
answer. But his interest was apparently satisfied with ascertaining
what she was _not_, and he went on to another question:--

"Where is your home?"

"Ah! that is difficult to answer," she said. "Before going to the
convent, I lived with my uncle, but I could hardly call that home; and,
since I have no desire to return to his house, I must reply with strict
correctness that I have no home."

"That is a sad statement for one so young. Is not your uncle your
guardian?"

"I suppose that he is; but, you see, I have no fortune to look
after--somehow it has all vanished away,--and, personally, I am not
very much in need of a guardian."

"Permit me to differ with you there," said Mr. Singleton, gravely.
"Personally, I think that you are very much in need of a guardian.
And by that I do not mean any reflection on your power of conducting
yourself--which I have no doubt is very sufficient,--but I mean that
no young and beautiful woman of good social rank should be without the
protection of such guardianship."

"I presume certainly that my uncle considers himself my guardian,
and it is likely that he has legal power to interfere with my
actions," said Marion. "But I think he does not feel interest enough
to interfere--unless he thought me likely to bring discredit on the
family. And I believe he knows me well enough not to fear that."

Mr. Singleton smiled at the unconscious pride of her tone, and the
gesture with which she lifted her head. "One need not know you very
well in order to be sure of that," he said. "But, since these are your
circumstances, allow me, as your kinsman, to ask another question. What
are your plans for the future?"

She opened her hands with a gesture signifying emptiness, and slightly
shrugged her shoulders. "Frankly, I have none," she answered. "I am
waiting on fate. Don't think that I mind it," she added, quickly,
catching an expression on his face. "It is interesting--it is like
waiting for a play to begin. If I had my choice, I should prefer the
uncertainties of my life to a life already mapped and arranged like
that of my cousin, Helen Morley. Why should uncertainty of the future
daunt one who has a consciousness of some powers, and has no fear at
all? I am only anxious for the play to begin, that is all."

"Poor child!" said her listener. The words were uttered involuntarily,
and startled him a little; for he was not easily moved to sympathy
or compassion. But the very dauntlessness of this courage, the very
rashness of this self-confidence, were sad to the man who knew so well
the pitfalls of life, the dangers which no powers could avert, no
bravery overcome. If Marion had subtly calculated how best to rouse
his interest, and touch whatever heart remained to him in the midst
of the gradual withering up of the springs of feeling, she could
not have succeeded better, nor probably half so well. Any appeal to
his sympathy, any tearful eyes or supplicating tones, he would have
resisted; but this proud daring of fate, this quick rejection of pity,
moved him more than, beforehand, he would have imagined possible. When
conscious of the words which had escaped him, he went on:--

"Pardon me, but I have known so long the life you are just
beginning--indeed I am about to leave the stage as you make your
_début_,--that I fear the play may not prove all that you fancy. It is
apt to take sudden turns which no skill can foresee, and which force
one, whether one will or not, into very unpleasant situations. But I
have no inclination to act the part of a prophet of ill, so I hope all
this may be reversed for you; certainly so much courage and so much
beauty ought to propitiate Fate. And, meanwhile, if there is anything I
can do to serve you, remember that I am your kinsman, and let me know."

"Thank you," said Marion, graciously. "But while waiting for the play
to begin, I have nothing to desire. My friends are very kind. And now I
fear that I may have reached that point of which we spoke earlier--the
point of possible boredom. At least I know that I have talked too much
of myself."

"Not at all," he replied, quickly. "You have only answered my
questions; and I have been, I fear, too inquisitive. But my interest in
you must plead my excuse. I suppose I have been more ready to gratify
it because it is not easily roused--at least not to the degree in which
you have roused it."

"That is very pleasant for me to hear," said Marion, truthfully. "I
like to rouse interest--everyone does, I imagine; and yet I should not
care for it if it were easily roused."

"No, I imagine not," said he, with a look that seemed to read her
through and through. "You will care only for difficult things, and you
are made to gain them."

Before Marion could express her approval of this prophecy, the sound of
approaching footsteps was heard, and Mrs. Singleton entered the room,
in the freshest and prettiest of evening toilets. She held out both
hands to Marion, with an air of effusion.

"I was roused out of my _siesta_ by the most delightful sounds!" she
cried. "At first I thought it must be an angel singing, but angels are
not in the habit of visiting me; so then I remembered your appointment,
and that I had intended to be present to share the pleasure with uncle.
Unfortunately I slept too long for that, but you will sing some for me
now--or perhaps we had better defer it until later, when Tom can have
the pleasure too. You remember that you are going to spend the evening
with us."

Marion remembered, and was very willing to do so; for these were people
whom she liked to cultivate. They were not only people of high social
consideration, who might be useful to her, but their knowledge of the
world, their familiarity with society abroad as well as at home, and
their easy habits of wealth and luxury, pleased her taste and gratified
her own instinctive yearning for these things. The quiet, old-fashioned
comfort of her aunt's establishment lost all its charm when contrasted
with the fashion and lavish expenditure which were here. She was the
only guest at the beautifully served dinner to which they sat down in
the summer gloaming; but she could truly assure Mrs. Singleton that she
was glad it was so. "Who could be found in Scarborough as entertaining
as yourselves?" she asked.

"How very nice of you to say so!" replied that lady, patting her hand.
"Then we are very well satisfied; for I am sure nobody could be found
in Scarborough as entertaining as you are. In fact, you do not belong
to the Scarborough order of life at all; you are totally out of place
here."

Marion laughed. "I am afraid I feel so occasionally," she said;
"but I have an idea that it is my fault: that I expect too much of
Scarborough."

"You belong to another life altogether," repeated Mrs. Singleton,
positively. "I felt sure of it the first time I saw you. A quiet,
sociable, country-town existence may suit other people--your pretty
cousin, for example,--but it does not suit _you_."

"That is very true," said Marion. "As a matter of taste, it certainly
does not suit me; but I learned early that one cannot always expect to
have one's tastes gratified."

"You are very philosophical. Now, for me, I always expect to have my
tastes gratified, and they generally are. Demand a great deal and you
will get at least some of it; that is my philosophy."

"And, unlike many philosophers, you always practice what you preach.
That I can testify," said Mr. Singleton (the husband). "Don't let her
demoralize you, Miss Lynde. If you have any moderation of desire, by
all means keep and culture it."

"Unfortunately, my desires are boundless," replied Marion, smiling. "It
is only my expectations which are moderate."

"Well, that is remarkable enough," said the gentleman; "if only you can
manage to keep them so--but you will not."

"Why not?"

He cast a glance into an opposite mirror. "About the best reason I
offer is to be found there," he answered. "No woman is going to expect
less than Nature gave her a right to demand."

And so on all sides fresh fuel was offered to the vanity which already
turned high and strong in dangerous flame.



CHAPTER IX.


Several weeks passed, during which the acquaintance of Marion with the
Singletons progressed rapidly to intimacy--such intimacy, that Helen
protested more than once that her cousin spent more time with Mrs.
Singleton than with herself. She was certainly very often the companion
of that lady--seen by her side in the pretty phaeton which she drove,
met at all her entertainments, called upon for all occasions when she
needed assistance, social or otherwise. The vaguely understood link of
relationship between them served as an excuse for this, had any excuse
been required beside the caprice of the elder and the inclination of
the younger lady. "I have discovered a cousin in Miss Lynde," Mrs.
Singleton would say to her Scarborough acquaintances. "Do you not
think that I am very fortunate?" And there were few who did not reply
honestly that they considered her very fortunate indeed.

But the person who regarded this association most approvingly was old
Mr. Singleton, since it secured him a great deal of Marion's society,
for which he evinced a partiality. It was, in fact, to this partiality
that Marion owed Mrs. Singleton's attentions. "Your uncle has taken a
most extraordinary fancy to that girl, Tom." she said to her husband
at a very early stage of the acquaintance; "so I think that I had
better cultivate her. It will be better for me to use her as a means
to contribute to his amusement than to let her develop into a power
against us. There is no counting on the whims of an old man, you know."

"Especially of _this_ old man," assented Mr. Singleton. "He is capable
of anything. Therefore I don't think I would have the girl about too
much."

"It is better for me to have her about than for him to take her up. If
he considers her my _protégée_, he will not be so likely to make her
his own. I have given the matter some thought, and that is the way I
look at it."

"You may be right," said easy-going Mr. Singleton. "I have great
confidence in your way of looking at things, and of managing them too.
But I confess that I have no confidence in this handsome and clever
young lady. I don't think she would hesitate to play one any trick."

"Confidence in _her_!" said Mrs. Singleton, with scorn. "Of course I
have not a particle. But she will have no opportunity to play me a
trick. Be sure of that."

Meanwhile Helen said to Marion, rather doubtfully: "Marion, do you
really like Mrs. Singleton very much? She is very pleasant and very
elegant, but somehow--I hope I am not uncharitable--I never feel as if
one could thoroughly trust her."

"My dear," replied Marion, with her mocking smile, "do you know, or
fancy that you know, many people whom you can 'thoroughly trust'? If
so, you are more fortunate than I am; for I have known only one or two
in my life."

"O Marion! no more than that? How can you be so unjust to your friends?"

"I have no friends, in the true sense of the term, except you and
Claire. I trust _you_."

"I hope so, and I you--most thoroughly."

Marion regarded her with something like wonder. "Now, why," she said,
dispassionately, "should you trust me? I am sure I have never shown a
character to inspire that sentiment."

"You delight in showing your worst side," answered Helen; "but it does
not deceive me. I know that the worst is not as bad as you would have
it believed to be, and that the best exists all the time."

"It certainly exists for you, and always will," said Marion, quickly.
"There is nothing I could not sooner do than betray your trust."

"How can you even hint such a thing!" exclaimed Helen, indignantly. "Do
you think I could ever fear it?"

"No," replied Marion; "I am sure that you would never fear it from
any one whom you love. But you may have to suffer it some day,
nevertheless."

The speaker's tone had more significance than she intended, and Helen
looked at her with a glance of sudden apprehension. "What do you mean?"
she asked. "Why should I fear it?"

"Why should any of us fear that we will have to share in the common
lot--the common knowledge of evil as well as of good?" said Marion,
evasively. "We must all expect it; at least that is one of the pleasant
things we are told."

"Oh! yes, I suppose we must expect it," said Helen. "But expecting a
thing in a general way, and doubting any--any one in particular, is a
very different matter."

The conversation ended here; but the mere fact that she had been so
quick to take alarm might have told Helen that, unconsciously to
herself, suspicion had taken some root in her mind. The readiness with
which she put herself into an attitude of defense showed that she
feared attack. And, indeed, she had already suffered more than one
attack on the subject of Rathborne--if that could be called attack
which was only the expression of a gentle doubt, first from her mother,
and then from the priest, who, distrusting all such marriages in
general, had special reasons for distrusting this one in particular.
Like most priests, he had many sources of information; many streams
flowed, as it were, into the silent reservoir of his mind; and in
this way things concerning Rathborne had come to his knowledge, which
rendered him deeply averse to seeing Helen link her pure young life
with that of a man so unscrupulous and selfish. Loath to give pain
if unable to achieve any practical good thereby, he had spoken very
guardedly to her when she sought his counsel; but, perhaps because he
spoke with so much caution, his words sank deeply into her mind, and
left a sense of weight behind. But it was one of her characteristics
that, after once reposing confidence in a person, she could not lightly
recall it; and she clung to Rathborne more closely for the opposition
which she attributed to mistaken judgment.

Nevertheless, Helen was already learning something of what Marion
called the common lot,--she was acquiring some knowledge of
the difficulty of reconciling conflicting desires, and of the
impossibility of finding things made smooth and easy. Now and then
there was a wistful look in her eyes, which touched her mother deeply,
and made her ready to consent to anything which would restore sunshine
to one who seemed so wholly made to enjoy it.

But Mrs. Dalton was not blind to one fact, which may or may not have
been clear to Helen,--the significant fact that Rathborne had not,
since the return home of her daughter, pressed his suit with his former
ardor. He had not begged that the conditional and merely tolerated
engagement should be converted into an open and positive one; he seemed
quite satisfied with matters as they stood, and took Helen's sentiments
entirely too much for granted, so Helen's mother thought. What to do,
however, she did not clearly perceive, and Father Barrett strongly
advised a policy of inaction. "Let matters take their own course," he
said. "I am of opinion that Helen may be spared what you fear most
for her; but this cannot be brought about by any effort of yours,
which would tend, on the contrary, to rouse opposition. If the child
must suffer, in any event do not let her have the additional pain of
thinking that she owes any of the suffering to you."

To this counsel Mrs. Dalton gave heed--or thought she did. But many
things betrayed to Helen that her mother's disapproval of Rathborne's
suit had not lessened with time. Anxious to avoid any possible
conflict, the girl shrank from broaching the subject; but it was
a growing pain to her affectionate nature that there should be a
subject--and that the nearest her heart and life--in which she was not
sure of her mother's sympathy--where her deepest feelings might yet be
arrayed against each other, and a difficult choice be made necessary.

To Marion, meantime, Rathborne had become somewhat troublesome. As we
learn in many an old legend that it is easier to raise a fiend than to
put him down, so she found it easier to make the impression which she
had desired than to regulate the effect of that impression. She had
made it with the utmost ease,--an ease very flattering to her vanity;
but, innocent as she had been of any intention save that of gratifying
vanity, retribution followed hard upon her steps. Apart from the fact
that she was incapable of deliberately betraying Helen's confidence,
she trusted Rathborne no further than most other people did. Moreover,
her arrogance of spirit was as great as her ambition, and she
considered herself fitted for a position much higher than he could
possibly offer her--had she believed him ready to offer anything. But,
so far from believing this, she gave him no credit for any sincerity of
intention toward her, knowing well that self-interest was the sole rule
of his life. "He dares to think that he can amuse himself with me and
then marry Helen!" she thought. "There may be two who can play at that
game. Let us see!"

The thought that it was a very dangerous game did not occur to her;
or, if it occurred, did not deter her. At this time of her life she
had only a sense of worldly honor to deter her from anything which
she desired to do; and she desired most sincerely to punish the man
whom she believed to be true neither to Helen nor herself. Therefore,
although his attentions began to annoy her, she did not discourage
them, notwithstanding that she noted scornfully how he avoided, as
far as possible, devoting himself to her when he was likely to be
observed. But his precautions had not saved him, as we are aware, from
the keen observation of Frank Morely; and Mrs. Dalton herself, with
eyes sharpened by a mother's anxiety, began to perceive that Marion
possessed a great attraction for him.

Matters were in this by no means satisfactory state when Mrs.
Singleton, growing weary of other forms of amusement, decided to
patronize Nature. There was a great deal of beautiful scenery in
the vicinity of Scarborough, which she declared had been too long
neglected. "A picnic is horrid!" she said. "The very word is full
of vulgar associations, and the thing itself is tiresome beyond
expression. One would grow weary of the most delightful people in the
world if doomed to spend a whole day in the woods with them. But a few
hours in the pleasantest part of the day--that is another matter. A
gypsy tea is just the thing! We will go out in the afternoon to Elk
Ridge, have tea, look at the sunset, and return by moonlight; is not
that a good idea?"

"Excellent," said the persons whom she addressed--a party of five
or six who had been dining with her. "It will make a very pleasant
excursion, only we must be sure of the moon."

"Oh! we have only to consult the almanac for that," said the lively
hostess. "I think there is a new moon due about this time."

Marion laughed, and, touching the arm of old Mr. Singleton, by whom she
sat, pointed out of a western window to the evening sky, where hung the
beautiful crescent of the moon, framed between the arching boughs of
tall trees.

"Hum--yes," observed that gentleman. "Anna's attention to Nature is
altogether controlled by the question of whether or not it can be made
to contribute to her amusement. Now that the moon has arrived, it will
not be long before the gypsy tea takes place."

And, indeed, in a few days all arrangements for this festivity were
completed, the party made up, and the programme settled. Mrs. Singleton
wished that Marion should accompany her; but Helen protested so much
against this that the arrangement was changed; and it was finally
settled that Marion and herself, with Rathborne and Morley, would make
up a _parti carré_ in a light open carriage.

There is nothing more attractive to youth, nothing more suited to
its natural lightness of heart and spirit, than such pleasures as
these--golden afternoons in summer woods and under summer skies;
sunsets when all nature is flooded with beauty, like a crystal cup
filled to the brim; and nights of spiritual, entrancing loveliness.
Even with older persons, the sense of care seems lifted from the mind
for a little time among such scenes; while to the young and happy, care
is a thing impossible to realize when earth itself in transformed into
Arcadia.

So Helen felt as she started on this excursion. In some subtle fashion,
the doubts which had weighed upon her for a considerable time past
were lifted. She did not say to herself that she had been foolish, for
she was little given to self-analysis; but involuntarily she felt it,
involuntarily she threw off the shadow which had fallen over her, and
grasped the pleasure offered, as a child puts out its hand to grasp
sunbeams. When they drove away, her heart was as light as a feather,
her face as bright as the day, and she turned back to wave her hand in
gay farewell to her mother.



CHAPTER X.


Elk Ridge, the place selected by Mrs. Singleton for her gypsy tea, was
a very picturesque and beautiful locality, distant seven miles from
Scarborough. The drive there, through the soft, golden beauty of the
August afternoon, was delightful; and the beauties of the height when
reached well repaid any exertion that might have been necessary to
gain it. Since none was necessary, however, it proved a great surprise
to those who had not been there before to find themselves on a noble
eminence, crowned by splendid masses of rock, and commanding a most
extensive view of the smiling country around and the blue mountains in
the distance. It was an ideal spot for _al fresco_ amusements, and the
party assembled were in the mood to enjoy it.

Very soon a kettle was hung from crossed sticks over a blazing fire;
and while the water was boiling, and the arrangements for tea in
progress, all those who were not actively engaged in these arrangements
scattered over the summit, admiring the view, and now and then climbing
some of the more accessible of the great granite boulders. Among the
last were Helen and Frank Morley, both in high spirits, and laughing
like a pair of merry children. Marion shrugged her shoulders over their
exploits.

"I have never been young enough for that," she said to Rathborne. "I
could never, at any stage of existence, see the 'fun' of risking one's
neck."

"It is childish!" he responded, with ill-concealed contempt. He had
endeavored to dissuade Helen, but for once she had been deaf to his
remonstrances. Her spirits were so high this afternoon that an outlet
for them was indispensable; and she was still so much of a child that
this special outlet of physical exertion and daring was very agreeable
to her.

"I suppose it is a good thing to be childish now and then," said
Marion. "I don't think _I_ ever was; and, no doubt, it is so much the
worse for me."

"On the contrary, I think, so much the better," replied Rathborne.
"Where there is childishness there must be folly, and I cannot imagine
you guilty of that."

"Can you not?" She paused an instant and seemed to reflect. "But there
are things worse than folly," she said, with one of her sudden impulses
of candor; "and I might be guilty of some of them."

"Oh! you might--yes." He laughed. "So might I. Perhaps for that reason
I have more sympathy with them than with folly."

Marion gave him a glance which he did not understand nor yet altogether
fancy. "Yes," she said, "I am very sure you have more sympathy with
what is bad than with what is foolish."

Before he could reply to such an equivocal speech, Mrs. Singleton sent
a messenger for Miss Lynde to come and help her pour out tea; and the
young lady rose and walked away.

It was very gay and bright and pleasant, that gypsy tea among the
rocks, with depths of verdure overhead and far-stretching beauty of
outspread country below. The amber sunshine streamed over the scene;
pretty pale-blue smoke, from the fire over which the kettle hung,
mounted in the air; there was a musical chatter of tongues and sound of
laughter. At such times and in such scenes it is difficult for the most
thoughtful to realize the great sadness of the world, the care that
encompasses life, and the pain that overshadows it. But these light
hearts were never at any time troubled with the realization of such
things. They were all young and, for the most part, prosperous; life
went easily with them, and nothing seemed more remote than trouble or
unhappiness. The hours sped lightly by, as such hours do, and presently
it was time to think of returning. The sun sank into his golden bed,
the moon would soon rise majestically in the east, and the drive back
to Scarborough would be as delightful as the drive out had been.

But just before the move for departure was made Rathborne came to
Marion and said: "You have not yet seen the finest view--that from the
other side of the Ridge. Would you not like to walk over there and look
at it?"

"I think not," replied Marion, who did not care for a _tête-à-tête_
with him. "I am not very fond of views."

"O but, Marion, this view is really fine!" cried Helen, eagerly. "Pray
go; you will be repaid for the exertion."

Not caring to make her refusal more marked, Marion rose with an inward
sense of vexation. "Very well, then," she said to Rathborne; "since
Helen is sure I will be repaid for the exertion, I will go; but, since
_I_ am not sure, I hope the exertion required is not very much."

"It is only that of walking about a hundred yards," he answered. And
as they turned and followed a well-defined path, which led among the
rocks and trees, he added, "I do not mean, however, to insist upon any
exertion which would be disagreeable to you."

Marion might truthfully have answered that it was not the exertion
which was disagreeable to her; but she had no desire to make an enemy
of this man, and instinct told her that whoever wounded his vanity was
thenceforth to him an enemy. So she replied lightly that she was very
indolent, especially where the beauties of nature were concerned; but
that she had no doubt the view would repay her after she reached it.

"I think it will," said Rathborne; "otherwise I should not have
proposed your coming."

And indeed even Marion, who was right in saying that the beauties of
nature did not greatly appeal to her, was moved by the loveliness and
extent of the view suddenly spread before her, when they came to the
verge of the Ridge, on the other side, where the hill broke off in a
sheer precipice. The great rock-face of this precipice shelved downward
to a soft, pastoral valley, beyond which were belts of encircling
woodlands, green hills rising into bolder heights as they receded, and
a distant range of azure mountains fair as hills of paradise.

"Oh! this _is_ glorious!" cried Marion, involuntarily, as the broad
scene, with the long, golden lights and beautiful shadows of late
evening falling across it, was suddenly revealed by an abrupt turn in
the path. She walked to the edge of the precipice and stood there,
with hands lightly clasped, looking into the far, magical distance.
At this moment, as in other moments like it, something stirred in
her nature deeper and nobler than its ordinary impulses. She had a
consciousness of possibilities which at other times were remote from
her realization,--possibilities of loftier action and feeling, of a
higher standard, of a loftier aim than her life had known. It was a
state of feeling not unlike that which came to her in the Catholic
church, and she shrank from it. By this grand arch of bending, lucid
sky, by those distant heavenly heights with their mystical suggestions,
thoughts were roused in her which seemed in little accord with the
other thoughts of her life. She forgot for a moment the man who stood
beside her, and started when he spoke.

"It repays you--I see that," he said. "And so I am repaid for bringing
you."

"Yes, it is very beautiful," she answered, slowly; "but I am not sure
that I am obliged to you for bringing me here. It produces in me
feelings that I do not like."

"What kind of feelings?" inquired Rathborne, curiously.

She swept him with a quick glance from under her half-drooped eyelids,
and he had again the impression that it conveyed something of contempt.

"If I could define them," she said, "I doubt if you would be able to
understand them. I am certain that you have never felt anything of the
kind."

"Why should you be certain of that?" he asked, a little irritated as
well by her tone as by her glance. "You do not surely think that you
have gauged all my possibilities of feeling."

"I have made no attempt to do so," she said, indifferently. "Why should
I? But one receives some impressions instinctively."

"And you think, perhaps, that I have no feeling," he replied quickly;
"that I am cold and hard and selfish, and altogether a calculating
machine. But you are mistaken. I was all that once--I frankly confess
it,--but since I have known you, I have changed. I have learned what it
is to feel in the deepest manner."

There was a short silence. Marion's heart gave a great bound and then
seemed to stand still. A fear which she had striven to put away was
now a horrible certainty. She had played with fire, and the moment of
scorching was come--come to desecrate a place which she had felt to be
a sanctuary filled with the consciousness of God. Her first impulse
was to turn and go away without a word; her next, to utter words as
scornful as her mood.

"If I am mistaken, so are you, Mr. Rathborne," she said,--"exceedingly
mistaken in imagining that I have given any thought to your feelings,
or that I am in the faintest degree interested in them."

Her tone stung him like the stroke of a whip, and roused a passion on
which she had not calculated. He took a few hasty steps toward her;
and she found herself prisoned between the precipice on one side, and
this man, who stood and looked at her with eyes that gleamed under his
frowning brow.

"Do you mean to tell me," he said, peremptorily, "that you have
no interest in feelings which you have deliberately excited and
encouraged? Do you mean to say that you have meant nothing when by
every art in your power you have led me on to love you?"

Surely retribution was very heavy upon Marion at that moment. The
injustice of the charge--for of any such intention her conscience
acquitted her--only added to her sense of angry humiliation, and to the
consciousness, which she could not ignore, that she had, in some degree
at least, brought this upon herself. Her indignation was so deep, her
anger so great, that for once her readiness of speech failed, and she
could only reply:

"How dare you address me in this manner?"

He laughed--a short, bitter laugh, not pleasant to hear. "You are
a good actor, Miss Lynde," he said. "I never doubted your capacity
in that line; but I see that it is even greater than I imagined.
How dare I address you with the truth! Why should I not? You have
made me believe that you desired nothing more than to hear it. Your
manner to me, since the first evening we met, has admitted of but
one interpretation--that you wished to excite the feeling I have not
hesitated to show you. And so long as I merely _showed_ it, you were
pleased; but now that I utter it, you profess an indignation which it
is impossible you can feel."

"You are speaking falsely!" cried Marion, whose anger was now so
excessive that no words seemed strong enough to express it. "I have
never for one instant wished to encourage the feeling of which you
speak. I knew you were engaged to Helen, and I thought you something,
at least, of a gentleman. I now see that you have no claim whatever to
that title. Let me pass!"

"No," he said--and now he extended his hand and caught her wrist in a
vise-like grasp. "I have no doubt, from the proficiency you exhibit,
that you have played this game before with success; but you shall not
have the pleasure of playing it successfully with me. In one way or
another, I will make it a costly game to you, unless you tell me that
all this affected indignation means nothing, and that if I end my
entanglement with Helen, you will marry me."

"Let me go!" said Marion, pale and breathless with passion. "If you
were free as air--if you had never been engaged to Helen--I would not
think of marrying you! Is that enough?"

"Quite enough," he answered--but still he did not release her wrist.
"Now listen to me. I am not a man with whom any woman--not even one
so clever as you are--can amuse herself with impunity. I do not mean
to be melodramatic; I shall not curse you for your deception, for the
heartlessness with which you have sacrificed me to your vanity; but I
warn you that you have made an enemy who will leave nothing undone to
pay his debt. I read you very thoroughly, beautiful and unscrupulous
schemer that you are; and I promise you that in the hour when you think
your schemes are nearest success, you will find them defeated by me. To
that I pledge myself."

There is something terrible in feeling one's self the object of hatred,
even if that hatred be both undeserved and impotent; and, brave as
Marion was, proud and defiant as she was, she felt herself shiver under
these words, and under the gaze which seconded them. What, indeed,
if she had made a mistake on the very threshold of the life in which
she had expected to manage so well. What if, instead of making a
satisfactory test of her power, she had roused an enmity which even
her experience knew to be more powerful and more tireless than love?
She did not quail under the fiery gaze bent on her, but her heart sank
with a sense of apprehension, of which she was strong enough to give no
outward sign.

"It is a very worthy object to which you pledge yourself," she
observed, with scorn. "But I am not afraid of a man who is cowardly
enough to threaten a woman with his enmity because she rejects and
despises what he calls his love."

Her voice had always a peculiar quality of clearness in speaking,
but when she was at all excited it was like silver in its resonance.
Therefore the words distinctly reached the ears of one who was coming
toward them, and the next instant Helen's pale face and startled eyes
rose before her.

She uttered a sharp exclamation, which stopped the words that were
rising to Rathborne's lips; and, wrenching her arm from his grasp, she
sprang forward to her cousin's side. "Helen!" she cried, unconscious
almost of what she said, "what are you doing here?"

It is not always the people who seem most weak whom emergency proves to
be so. At this moment Helen exhibited a self-control which would have
surprised even those who knew her best. She was pale as marble, and her
violet eyes had still their startled, piteous look; but she answered,
quietly:--

"I came to look for you. It was foolish--I will go back now. Don't
trouble to come with me."

But as she turned, Marion seized her arm. "Helen!" she exclaimed,
"don't misjudge me! Don't think that this is my fault!"

"No," replied Helen, with the same strange quietness; "I heard what you
said. I don't blame--any one. I suppose it was natural."

Then it was Rathborne's turn. "Helen," he said, coming up to her, and
speaking with an attempt at the old tone of authority; "you must listen
to _me_."

But she turned away from him with something like a shudder. "No," she
said, "do not ask me--not now. I may be weak, but not so weak as not to
understand--this. Don't come with me. Frank will look after me and take
me home. That is all I want."

She moved away through the beautiful greenery, a slender, lovely
figure, with drooping head; and the two whom she left behind watched
her with one sensation at least in common--that of a keen sense of
guilt, which for the moment no other feeling was strong enough to
stifle.



CHAPTER XI.


When Marion returned to the party, who were preparing for their
homeward drive, Frank Morley came up to her with a very grave face.

"Helen tells me that she is feeling so bad, Miss Lynde," he said,
coldly, "that she wishes me to take her home. I have, therefore,
arranged for our return in the buggy in which Netta came out, and she
and her escort will take our places in the carriage with you."

"Make whatever arrangement you please," answered Marion, as coldly as
himself; "but pray leave me out of it. There is a vacant seat in Mrs.
Singleton's carriage, which I shall take for the return."

"Very well--the matter, is settled, then," he said. "I will take Helen
away at once." And he walked off with a scant courtesy, which his youth
and indignation excused.

But it was a new sensation to Marion to be treated with discourtesy by
any one; and she had to pull herself together with an effort before she
was able to approach Mrs. Singleton in her usual manner, and announce
that she was willing to take the seat she had before declined.

"I don't like to repeat anything, not even a drive, in exactly the
same manner," she said by way of explanation; "so if you will allow me,
I will join you for the homeward drive."

"I shall be delighted to have you," answered Mrs. Singleton. "I thought
you would do better to come with me. Tom will be delighted, too. You
shall sit with him, and drive if he will let you."

Good-natured Mr. Singleton was much pleased to share his box seat with
such a companion, and even to make over the reins to her whenever
the road was good enough to allow of it with safety; while to Marion
there was distraction from her own thoughts--from the recollection
of unpleasant complications, and the sense of angry humiliation--in
guiding the spirited horses, that tried all the strength of her arms
and wrists, and required an undivided attention.

However, the drive was soon over, and then she had before her the
disagreeable necessity of facing her aunt and Helen. Brave as she was,
she was assailed by a cowardly impulse to avoid meeting them. What if
she went home with Mrs. Singleton, and for the evening at least did not
meet them? But what would be gained by that, except delay? She knew
that unless she wished to leave it in Rathborne's power to make what
statement he chose, she _must_ go to them with her own statement; and,
this being so, delay would serve no end except to give the impression
of heartless indifference. No, there was nothing for it but to meet at
once what had to be met sooner or later; so when the Singleton carriage
drew up at her aunt's gate, she exchanged a gay farewell with her
companions, and with a heavy heart and reluctant step took her way to
the house.

How different from its usual aspect that house looked, as she drew
near it! Usually at this hour bright lights shone from the windows;
there would be snatches of music, sounds of voices and laughter; if the
moon were shining as to-night, a gay party would be assembled on the
veranda. Now it was still and quiet; the lights in the drawing-room
were turned low; the broad, open hall looked deserted. Only one figure
emerged from the shadow of the vines on the veranda into the full
moonlight as she approached. It was a small figure--that of Harry
Dalton.

"Why, Harry!" exclaimed Marion, with an effort to speak as usual, "are
you all alone? Where is Helen?"

"Helen has gone upstairs; she has a headache," answered Harry. "But
mamma is in the sitting-room, and wants to see you."

"Very well," said Marion. She began to unbutton her gloves, as some
outward relief to her inward agitation, and without pausing, walked
into the house. Since the interview must take place, the sooner it was
over the better--so she said to herself as she entered the room where
her aunt awaited her.

Mrs. Dalton was sitting by a table on which stood a shaded lamp, and,
with a book open before her, seemed to be reading; but her effort to
fix her mind on the page had not met with much success. She had, in
reality, been waiting for the sound of her niece's step; and when she
heard her coming, she was conscious of as much shrinking from the
interview as Marion felt. "I must be reasonable," she said to herself;
and then, pushing back her volume, she looked up as the girl entered.

It was characteristic of Marion that she spoke first. "I am sorry to
hear that Helen is not well, aunt," she said. "Has she been at home
long?"

"About half an hour," answered Mrs. Dalton. "She has gone to her room;
she asked that she might be left alone. That is so unlike Helen, that
I am sure something very serious has occurred. And I judge from a few
words which Frank said, that you know what it is, Marion."

"What did Mr. Frank Morley say?" inquired Marion, sitting down. The
introduction of his name roused in her an immediate sense of defiance.
After all, what right had they to suppose that what had happened was
any fault of hers?

"He said that Helen had overheard something which passed between Paul
Rathborne and yourself," answered Mrs. Dalton; "and that afterward she
had asked him to bring her home alone. He told me this in reply to my
questions. Helen said nothing; but I feel that I ought to know how
matters stand, so I ask you what did she overhear?"

"She overheard me tell Mr. Rathborne that I rejected and despised the
love that he ventured to offer me," replied Marion, speaking in her
clearest and most distinct tone.

A quick contraction of the brow showed how much the answer pained, if
it did not surprise, Mrs. Dalton. "My poor child!" she said, as if
to herself. Then she looked at Marion with something like a flash in
her usually gentle eyes. "And do you hold yourself guiltless in this
matter?" she asked. "If Paul Rathborne is a traitor to Helen--as he
surely is,--have not you encouraged his admiration? Does not your
conscience tell you that you have sacrificed her happiness for the
gratification of your vanity?"

"No," replied Marion; "my conscience tells me nothing of the kind. How
could I prevent Mr. Rathborne's folly? But, of course, I expected to be
blamed for it," she added, bitterly. "That is the justice of the world."

"God forgive me if I am unjust!" said Mrs. Dalton. "I did not mean to
be. But, Marion, this is not altogether a surprise to me. I have seen
his admiration for you, and I have seen--I could not help seeing--that
you did not discourage it."

"Why should I have discouraged it?" asked Marion. "I saw no harm in
it. I could not imagine that because he found some things to like--to
admire, if you will--in me, he would become a traitor to Helen. It is
asking too much to demand that one turn one's back on a man because he
is a shade more than civil."

Mrs. Dalton shook her head. "Those are merely words," she said. "They
do not deceive yourself any more than they deceive me. You know that
you have used this man's admiration as fuel for your vanity, and that
so cautious and so selfish a man would never have acted as he has
done if he had not felt himself encouraged. Do not misunderstand me,"
she added, more hastily. "For Helen's sake I am not sorry that this
has happened. It is better for her, even at the cost of great present
suffering, that her eyes should be opened to his true character. But
you, Marion--how can you forgive yourself for the part you have played?
And what is to become of you if you do not check the vanity which has
led you to betray the trust and wring the heart of your best friend?"

The quiet, penetrating words--gentle although so grave--seemed to
Marion at that moment like a sentence from which there was no appeal.
Her conscience echoed it, her eyes fell, for an instant it looked as if
she had nothing to reply. But she rallied quickly.

"I am sorry if you think I have wilfully done anything to pain Helen,"
she said, coldly. "It does not strike me that I could have averted
this, unless I had been gifted with a foreknowledge which I do not
possess. I could never have imagined that Mr. Rathborne would be so
false with regard to Helen, and so presumptuous with regard to _me_."

The haughtiness of the last words was not lost on the ear of the
listener, who looked at the beautiful, scornful face with a mingling of
pity and indignation.

"You expected," she said, "to encourage a man's admiration up to a
certain point, and yet to restrain his presumption? A little more
knowledge of human nature would have told you that was impossible; a
little more feeling would have kept you from desiring it." She paused
a moment, then went on, with the same restrained gravity: "I am sorry
if I seem to you harsh, but nothing in this affair is worse to me than
the revelation it makes of your character. I am grieved by Helen's
suffering, and shocked by Paul Rathborne's treachery; but for the first
I have the comfort that it may in the end spare her worse suffering,
and for the second I feel that it is not a surprise--that I never
wholly trusted his sincerity. But _you_, Marion--what can I think of
you, who, without any stronger feeling than vanity to lead you on, have
trifled with your own sense of honor, as well as with the deepest
feelings of others? What will your future be if you do not change--if
you do not try to think less of unworthy objects and more of worthy
ones--less of gaining admiration and more of keeping your conscience
clear and your heart clean?"

"What will my future be!" repeated Marion. She rose as she spoke, and
answered, proudly: "That concerns myself alone. I have no fear of it; I
feel that I can make it what I will, and I shall certainly not will to
make it anything unworthy. But it need not trouble you in the least. I
am sorry that my coming here should have brought any trouble on Helen.
The only amend I can make is to go away at once, and that I will do."

"No," said Mrs. Dalton, quickly; "that can not mend matters now, and
would only throw a very serious reflection upon you when it is known
that Helen's engagement is at an end. I cannot consent to it."

"But Helen's engagement might not be at an end if I went away,"
responded Marion.

"You do not know Helen yet," said Mrs. Dalton, quietly. "I have not
spoken to her on the subject, but I am certain what her decision will
be."

Marion herself was by no means certain that Mrs. Dalton's judgment was
correct. She thought Helen weak and yielding to the last degree, and
believed that very little entreaty would be requisite on Rathborne's
part to induce her to forgive him. "It will be only necessary for him
to throw all the blame on me," she thought, with a bitter smile, as she
went to her chamber. Nevertheless, it was not a very tranquil night
that she passed. Whatever change the future might bring, she knew
that Helen was suffering now--suffering the keen pangs which a loving,
trusting heart feels when its love and trust have been betrayed. "It is
hard on her, she is so good, so kind, so incapable herself of betraying
any one!" thought the girl, whose conscience was still in a very
dormant state, but whose sense of pity was touched. "How sorry Claire
would be if she knew!" And then came the reflection, "What would Claire
think of me?" followed by the quick reply, "She would be as unjust as
the rest, and call it my fault, no doubt."

The thought of Claire's judgment, however, was another sting added to
those which already disturbed her; and it was not strange that she
tossed on her pillow during the better part of the night, only falling
asleep toward morning. As is usually the case after a wakeful night,
her sleep was heavy, so that the first sound that roused her was the
breakfast bell. She opened her eyes with a start, and to her surprise
saw Helen standing beside her.

The memory of all that had happened flashed like lightning into her
mind; and, unable to reconcile that memory with this appearance, she
could only gasp, "Helen!--what are you doing here?"

"I knocked at the door, but you did not answer, so I came in," Helen
responded, simply. "It is late, else I should not have disturbed you.
But I wanted to speak to you before you went down."

"Yes," said Marion. She sat up in bed, with white draperies all about
her, and looked at her cousin. She expected a demand for explanation,
perhaps reproaches, but she did not expect what came.

"I only want to tell you," said Helen, with the same quiet simplicity,
"that I have no reason to blame you for--what occurred yesterday. It
was not your fault: you could not have helped it. I don't know that any
one is to blame very much," she added, with a sigh; "but I felt that I
ought to tell you that I do not blame _you_ at all."

"Helen!" cried Marion. All her proud self-control suddenly gave way,
and she burst into tears. The generosity which underlay the erring
surface of her nature was touched to the quick, and her conscience
spoke as it had never spoken before. "Helen, you are too good," she
said. "You judge me too kindly. I do not feel myself that I am not to
blame. On the contrary, I have no doubt my aunt is perfectly right, and
that I am very much to blame. I let my vanity and my love of admiration
carry me too far, but never with the intention of injuring you or
betraying your trust--never!"

"I am sure of that," said Helen, gently. She laid her hand on the bent
head of the other. It startled her to see Marion display such feeling
and such humility as this. "Mamma was thinking of me," she went on;
"else she would not have blamed you; for how could you help being more
attractive than I am? If I was unreasonable enough to think for a
little time last night that you were to blame, I know better now. God
has given me strength to look at things more calmly. I can even see
that _he_ may not be greatly in fault. No doubt he thought he loved
me--until he saw you."

"Helen, he is not worthy of you!" cried Marion, passionately. "He loves
no one but himself."

Helen shook her head. "Surely he loves you," she said; "else why
should he tell you so? But we need not discuss this. Will you come down
when you are ready?"

"Oh! yes," said Marion, with an effort; "I will be down very soon."

She rose as Helen left the room, and dressed very hastily, a prey
the while to many conflicting emotions. Relief was mingled with
self-reproach, and admiration of Helen's generosity with scorn of her
weakness. "For, of course, her excuses for him mean that she will
forgive him!" she thought. "I have heard that women--most women--are
fools in just that way, and Helen is exactly the kind of woman to be
guilty of that folly. The miserable dastard!"--she remembered his
threat to herself--"I wish I could punish him as he deserves for his
treachery and presumption!"

It did not occur to her to ask whether or not _she_ deserved any
punishment for the share she confessed to having borne in the
treachery. Had the idea been suggested to her, she would have said that
her share was infinitesimal compared with his, and that she had already
been punished by the insolence she had drawn upon herself.



CHAPTER XII.


But Helen's quietness did not deceive her mother, whose heart ached
as she saw in the pale young face all the woful change wrought by one
night of suffering, one sharp touch of anguish. Yet, if she had only
known it, the girl brought back into the house a very different face
from that which she had taken out in the early morning, when, driven
by an intolerable sense of pain, she had gone in search of strength
to bear it. There was but one place where such strength was to be
found, and thither her feet had carried her direct. She was the first
person to enter the little church when it was opened to the freshness
of the summer morning; and long after the Holy Sacrifice was over she
had still knelt, absorbed and motionless, before the altar. Everyone
went away: she was left alone with the Presence in the tabernacle;
and in the stillness, the absolute quiet, a Voice seemed speaking to
her aching heart, and bringing comfort to her troubled soul. When at
length, warned of the passage of time by the striking of a distant
clock, she lifted her face from her clasped hands, even amid the stains
of tears there were signs of peace. The sting of bitterness had been
taken out of her grief; and, that being so, it had become endurable.
She might and would suffer still; but when she had once brought herself
to resign this suffering into the hands of God, and with the docility
of a child accept what it pleased Him to permit, the worst was over.

The first result of the struggle she had made and the victory she had
gained was apparent when, on her return home, she went to Marion's
room. The generous heart could not rest without clearing itself at once
of the least shadow of injustice,--and she had implied, if she had not
expressed, a blame of Marion which she was noble enough to feel might
be unjust. Hence that visit which so deeply touched the girl, whose own
conscience failed to echo Helen's acquittal.

Breakfast passed very quietly. Mrs. Dalton saw that her daughter was
making an heroic effort to appear as usual, and she seconded it as far
as lay in her power, talking more than was her custom in order to allow
Helen to be silent, and to prevent the boys from asking questions about
events of the preceding afternoon. To make no change in her manner to
Marion was more difficult; but, with the example that Helen set, she
was able to accomplish even this; and finally the usual separation for
the morning took place with great sense of relief to all concerned.
Marion put on her hat and went out, ostensibly to keep an appointment
with Mrs. Singleton, but really to be safely out of the way in case
Rathborne should make his appearance.

Helen herself had some fear of this appearance, and she took refuge
in her own chamber, dreading the necessary explanation to her mother,
not so much on her own account as on account of the judgment upon
Rathborne which she knew would follow. Tenderness does not die in an
hour or a day; and although her resolve to put him out of her life was
firm, she was not yet able to put him out of her heart, nor to think
without shrinking of the severe condemnation which her mother would
mete out to him. There was no need for haste in speaking; she might
rest a little, and gather strength for the trial, knowing that Mrs.
Dalton would make no effort to force her confidence.

So she was resting on the bed, where she had not slept at all the night
before, when the door softly opened and Mrs. Dalton entered the room.

"Helen," she said, gently, "I am sorry to disturb you, but Paul
Rathborne is downstairs and asks to see you. What shall I tell him?"

"Tell him that I cannot see him," answered Helen. "It is impossible!
You must speak for me--you must make him understand that he is entirely
free from any engagement to me, and I do not blame him for what he
could not help. I suppose you have guessed that something is the
matter," she added, wistfully. "It is only that I have found out he
cares for Marion--not for me."

Mrs. Dalton put her arm around her with a touch full of sympathy,
without speaking for a moment. Then she said: "My child, I always knew
he was not worthy of you."

"But this does not prove him unworthy of me," replied Helen, in a tone
sharp with pain. "It only proves that he was mistaken when he thought
of me."

"Men of honor do not make such mistakes," said Mrs. Dalton.

"How could he help falling in love with Marion?" continued Helen. "She
is so much more beautiful, so much more attractive than I am! And that
he has done so, settles the doubt of his disinterestedness which you
always entertained. Do him so much justice, mamma. You feared that he
professed to care for me because I have a little money. But Marion has
none."

"We need not discuss that, my dear," said Mrs. Dalton, who was touched
but not convinced by this generous plea. "It is enough if, satisfied
that his affections have wandered, you are determined to dismiss him."

"Yes," said Helen, "I am determined on that. But I cannot see him. You
must go to him, and tell him from me that I do not blame him, but that
all is at an end between us."

With this message Mrs. Dalton went downstairs. Her own mood with
Rathborne was far from being as charitable as her daughter's; and her
face, usually set in very gentle lines, hardened to sternness as she
descended. She was not inclined to deal leniently with one who had so
shamefully betrayed the trust placed in him, and had overshadowed so
darkly the sunshine of Helen's life. Like some other parents, she had
up to this time imagined that the stern conditions of human existence
were to be relaxed for Helen, and that one so formed for happiness was
to be granted that happiness in a measure which is allowed to few. A
sense of keen injury was, therefore, added to her indignation at a
treachery for which she could find no palliation.

Rathborne, who was anxiously expecting yet dreading to see Helen, drew
his breath with a sharp sense of vexation when his aunt entered. This
was worse than he had feared. Calculating upon Helen's gentleness, he
had not thought that she would refuse to see him; and if she saw him,
he believed that his influence would be strong enough to induce her
to overlook anything. But when Mrs. Dalton entered, he knew that the
consequences of his treachery were to be fully paid. A cold greeting
was exchanged between them, and then a short silence followed, as each
hesitated to speak. It was Mrs. Dalton who broke it, as soon as she
felt able to control her voice.

"I have told Helen that you are here," she said, "but she declines to
see you. It is not necessary, I presume, to explain why she declines.
Of that you are fully aware. It is not necessary, either, that I should
add anything to her own words, which are, briefly, that you will
consider everything at an end between you. She added also that she does
not blame you for anything that has occurred--but I hardly think that
your own conscience will echo that."

"No," said Rathborne, who had paled perceptibly, "my own conscience
does not echo it. On the contrary, I feel that I am deeply to blame;
yet I hoped that Helen might believe me when I say that I am not so
much to blame as appears on the surface. A man may be tempted beyond
his strength, and some women are experts in such temptations."

Mrs. Dalton looked at him with scorn in her eyes. "If you think," she
said, "that you will serve your cause with Helen by such cowardly
insinuations as that, you are mistaken. And, as far as I am concerned,
you have only taken a step lower in my esteem. But that is a point
which does not matter. Wherever the blame rests, the fact remains that
if Helen did not take the decision of the matter into her hands, _I_
should do so. You have proved yourself a man whom it is impossible I
can ever consent to trust with my daughter's life and happiness."

Rathborne rose to his feet. The decisive words seemed to leave him
no alternative. He felt that he had committed a blunder which was
altogether irretrievable; and combined with the keen mortification of
failure was a hatred, which gathered bitterness with every moment,
against the woman he believed to have led him on and deceived him.

"In that case," he said, "there is nothing for me to do but to go. I
had hoped that Helen might understand--that she would not let a moment
of folly outweigh the devotion of years; but if she judges me as hardly
as you seem to imply, I see that my hope is vain. Tell her from me that
if she knew the whole truth she would regard the matter in a different
light. But if she does not wish to know the truth--if she prefers to
judge me unheard,--I can only submit."

"It is best she should not see you," said Mrs. Dalton, who was glad
that Helen herself had decided this point. "Even if you persuaded her
to trust you again, I could not give my consent to the renewal of an
engagement which has been ended in this manner."

"_You_ have always distrusted me," said Rathborne, bitterly.

"No," she replied, gravely; "so far from that, I trusted you as my own
son, though I did not think you were the person to make Helen happy.
I had always a fear that you did not care for her enough, and now I
am forced to believe that you did not care for her at all. If you had
done so, this could never have happened, just as it could never have
happened if you had possessed the right principle and the sense of
honor which I should certainly wish my daughter's husband to possess."

Rathborne could hardly believe the evidence of his ears as he listened
to these severe, incisive words. He had always regarded Mrs. Dalton as
a person who was mild to weakness, and whom, whenever it suited him,
he could influence in whatever manner desired. He therefore scarcely
recognized this woman, with her sentence of condemnation based on
premises which he could not deny, though he made a faint attempt to do
so.

"You do not understand," he said, "how a brief infatuation--a delirium
of fancy--can attack a man, let his sense of honor be what it may. As
for my attachment to Helen, that is something which has lasted too long
to be doubted now."

"Will you inform me, then, how you proposed to reconcile it with your
declaration to Marion?"

"That was drawn from me--forced from me!" he exclaimed. "It was a
madness of the moment, into which I was led by her art."

Mrs. Dalton rose now, a bright spot of color on each check. "That is
enough!" she said. "I can listen to nothing more. No man of honor
would, for his own sake, utter such words as those--even if they were
true, and I am sure they are not. Great as my niece's faults may be,
she is incapable of such conduct as you charge her with. Go, Paul
Rathborne! By such excuses you only prove more and more how unworthy
you are of Helen's affection or Helen's trust."

"Very well," he answered, his face white and bitter with anger. "As you
and she have decided, so be it. But take care that the day does not
come when you will deeply regret this decision."

Then he turned, and, without giving her time to reply had she been so
inclined, left the room.

Mrs. Dalton looked after him with a heavy sigh. Regret her decision she
knew that she would not; but it would be vain to say that she did not
regret the necessity for it, that she did not think with a keen pang
of Helen's suffering, and that she did not feel, with much bitterness,
that Marion had not been guiltless in the matter. Yet even in the midst
of her indignation she had pity for the girl, whose vanity and ambition
were likely to wreck her life, as they had already gone far to alienate
her best friends.

Meanwhile Marion could not disguise the fact that she was not in her
usual spirits--for the thought of Helen weighed heavily upon her,--and
Mrs. Singleton, observing this, drew at once her own conclusions.

"I am afraid the gypsy tea was not altogether a success, so far as you
were concerned or your cousin either," she said. "I heard that she went
home with Frank Morley instead of with her _fiancé_. I will not ask any
indiscreet questions, but I suspect that your attractions have drawn
Mr. Rathborne from his allegiance. It is what I have anticipated for
some time."

Marion frowned a little, annoyed by this freedom, which, however, she
felt that she had drawn upon herself, and had no right to resent. But
she evaded the implied question.

"Helen was not feeling well, and so she made her cousin take her home
before we were ready to start," she said. "I am not particularly
partial to Miss Morley's society, or Mr. Rathborne's either, and
thought I would accept the seat you offered me. That was the whole
matter."

"I am delighted to hear it," said Mrs. Singleton, not deceived in the
least. "I was afraid there had been a lover's quarrel, and that perhaps
you were the innocent cause of it. That is always such an awkward
position. I have occupied it myself once or twice, so I speak from
knowledge."

"I am sure that if you occupied it, it must have been innocently," said
Marion, with malice. "But we need not discuss what is not, I trust,
likely to occur, so far as I am concerned. How is Mr. Singleton this
morning?"

"Not well at all. This is one of his bad days. And it is one of mine,
too," she added, with a slight grimace; "for I have just heard that
Brian Earle is coming."

"And who is Brian Earle?"

"Surely you have heard my uncle talk of him? At least, it is most
astonishing if you have not; for he likes him better than any one else
in the world, I think; although they don't agree very well. I have no
fancy for Brian myself: I find him entirely too much of a prig; but
I will say that he might twist the old man around his finger if he
would only yield a little more to his wishes and opinions. It is a
lucky thing for us that he will not, but it does not make his folly
less. Fancy! Mr. Singleton asked him to live with him, look after his
business, and generally devote himself to him during his life, with the
promise of making him his sole heir, and _he refused_! Can you believe
that?"

"I must believe it if you are sure of it," replied Marion, smiling at
the energy of the other. "But why did he refuse?"

Mrs. Singleton shrugged her shoulders. "Because he was not willing to
give up control of his own life, and spend the best years of his youth
in idleness, waiting for an old man to die. That is what he said. As
if he would not gain by that waiting more than his wretched art would
bring him if he toiled at it all his life!"

"His art--what is he?"

"Oh! a painter--or an attempt at one. Are such people always visionary
and impracticable? I judge so from what I have read of them, and from
my knowledge of him. It is true that his folly serves our interest very
well; for if he had agreed to what his uncle proposed, we should have
no chance of inheriting anything; but, nevertheless, one has a contempt
for a man with so little sense."

"I think you should have the highest regard for him in this instance,
since he is serving your interest so well. But why is he coming?"

"To see his uncle before going abroad again. Mr. Singleton has a strong
attachment for him, notwithstanding the way he has acted; and I should
not be surprised if he made him his heir, after all. So you see there
is no reason why I should be overjoyed at his visit, especially since
he is not at all an agreeable person, as you will see."

"I may not see," said Marion; "for I do not think I shall be in
Scarborough much longer."

"You are going away?" said Mrs. Singleton, with a quick flash of
comprehension in her eyes.

"In a few days probably," was the reply. "I promised to spend only a
month with Helen, and I have been here now six weeks."

"But I thought you were good for the season," said Mrs. Singleton;
while her inward comment was: "So matters are just as I thought!"



CHAPTER XIII.


Reticence was not Mrs. Singleton's distinguishing characteristic. It
was not very long, therefore, before she mentioned her suspicions
about Marion both to her husband and her uncle. The first laughed,
and remarked that it was only what he had expected; the latter looked
grave, and said: "In that case it will not be pleasant for her to
remain in her aunt's house."

"So far from it," was the careless reply, "that she is speaking of
leaving Scarborough."

Mr. Singleton glanced up sharply. "That would be very undesirable," he
said. "Her singing is a great pleasure to me; for the matter of that,
so is her society. Ask her to come and stay with you."

Mrs. Singleton lifted her eyebrows. This was far from what she
anticipated or desired. There had been a little malicious pleasure in
her announcement, but she would certainly have refrained from making
it had she feared such a result as this. She was so vexed that for a
moment she could scarcely speak. Then she said: "You are very kind;
but, although I like Miss Lynde, I do not care enough for her society
to ask her to stay with me."

"I never imagined for an instant that you cared for her society,"
replied Mr. Singleton, coolly. "I was not thinking of your
gratification, but of my own, in desiring you to ask her here. Of
course, it is necessary that she should be nominally your guest;
although, as we are aware, really mine."

"I think, then, that it would be best she should be nominally as well
as really yours," said Mrs. Singleton, too much provoked to consider
for the moment what was her best policy.

Mr. Singleton looked at her with an ominous flash in his glance. "Very
well," he answered, deliberately. "That is just as you please. We can
easily change existing arrangements. I will speak to Tom about it."

But this intimation at once brought Mrs. Singleton to unconditional
surrender.

"There is no need for that," she said, hastily. "Of course I will do
whatever you desire. I only thought it might be best that the matter
should be clearly understood. I have no fancy for Miss Lynde, nor any
desire for her companionship. To speak the truth, I do not trust her at
all."

Mr. Singleton shrugged his shoulders--a gesture to which he gave an
expression that many of his friends found very irritating. It said
plainly at present that nothing mattered less in his opinion than
whether Mrs. Singleton trusted Miss Lynde or not.

"Let us keep to the point," he said, quietly. "What your sentiments
with regard to the young lady may be I do not inquire. I only desire
you to ask her to come here. If you object to do this--and far be
it from me to place any constraint upon you,--I must simply make an
arrangement by which it can be done. That is all."

"Why should I object?" asked Mrs. Singleton. "If she comes as your
guest, it is certainly not my affair."

"I have requested, however, that you ask her to come as your guest. Do
not misunderstand that point. And do not give the invitation so that it
may be declined. I should consider that tantamount to not giving it at
all. See that she comes. You can arrange it if you like."

With this intimation the conversation ended, and Mrs. Singleton had no
comfort but to tell her husband of the disagreeable necessity laid upon
her. "I am to ask Marion Lynde to come here as my guest, and I am to
see that she comes! Could anything be more vexatious?" she demanded.
"I am so provoked that I feel inclined to leave your uncle to manage
his own affairs, and to get somebody else to invite guests for his
amusement."

"Nothing would be easier than for him to do so," said Mr. Singleton.
"We are not at all necessary to him, you know. And why on earth should
you object to asking Miss Lynde, if he desires it? It seems to me that
you might desire it yourself."

"Oh! it seems so to you, does it?" asked the lady, sarcastically.
"Because she has a pretty face, I presume. It does not occur to you
that a girl who has drawn her cousin's _fiancé_ into a love affair with
her--for I am certain that is what has occurred--would betray us just
as quickly, and use her influence with this infatuated old man to any
end that suited her."

Mr. Singleton looked a little grave at this view of the case. "Well,"
he said, "that may be so, but how are we to help it? Certainly not by
showing that we are afraid of her."

"I might have helped it by letting her go away without telling him
anything about it," said the lady. "And I wish I had!"

"Useless!" said her philosophical husband. "He would have found it out
for himself. Don't worry over the matter. Ask her here with a good
grace, since you have no alternative, and trust that he will tire of
her as he has tired of everybody else."

That this was good advice--in fact, the only advice to be
followed--Mrs. Singleton was well aware. And she proceeded to do what
was required of her, with as good a grace as she could command. The
invitation surprised Marion, but it was not unwelcome, as cutting the
knot of her difficulties. For, anxious as she now was to leave her
aunt's house, and to spare herself the silent, unconscious reproach of
Helen's pale face, she was deeply averse to returning to her uncle's
home. She had registered a passionate resolve never to return there if
she could avoid it; but she had begun to fear that she would be unable
to avoid doing so, when Mrs. Singleton's invitation offered her, at
least, a temporary mode of escape. She received it graciously, saying
that she would be happy to accept it whenever her aunt and cousin would
consent to let her go.

"Oh! I am sure they will be averse to giving you up," said Mrs.
Singleton, with the finest sarcastic intention. "But if you are
intending to leave them in any event, they can not object to your
coming to me for a time."

"They will certainly not object to that," replied Marion. "The
question is only _when_ I can avail myself of your kind invitation."

This proved to be quite soon; for when Mrs. Dalton heard of the
invitation, she advised Marion to set an early day for accepting it.
"I think it necessary," she said, "to take Helen away for change of
air and scene. I should have asked you to accompany us; but, under the
circumstances, the arrangement proposed by Mrs. Singleton is best. I am
sure you will understand this."

"I understand it perfectly," said Marion; "and am very sorry that you
should have been embarrassed by any thought of me."

So it was settled. Helen was quite passive, ready to do whatever was
desired of her; but the spring of happiness seemed broken within
her--that natural, spontaneous happiness which had appeared as much a
part of her as its perfume is part of a flower. It was hard for Mrs.
Dalton to forgive those who, between them, had wrought this change;
although she knew that it was well for her daughter to be saved, at any
cost, from a marriage with Rathborne.

But Rathborne himself was naturally not of this opinion; and, being a
person of strong tenacity of purpose, he was determined not to give up
his cause as lost until he had tested his influence over Helen. The
opportunity to do this was for some time lacking. He knew that it would
be useless to go again to Mrs. Dalton's house and ask for an interview,
even if his pride had not rendered such a step impossible. He waited
for some chance of meeting Helen alone; but she shrank from going
out, so he had found no opportunity, when he heard of her intended
departure. This brought him to see the necessity of vigorous measures,
and consequently he appeared the next morning at the Catholic church,
having learned at what hour Mass was said.

Entering late--for he did not wish to be observed more than was
unavoidable,--he found the Mass in progress, and about half a dozen
persons representing the congregation. His glance swept rapidly
over these, and at once identified Helen, observing with a sense of
relief that she was alone. Satisfied on this point, he dropped into
a seat near the door to wait until the service ended, looking on
meanwhile with a careless attention which had not the least element of
comprehension. To him it was an absurd and unintelligible rite, which
he did not even make the faintest effort to understand.

When it ended, he thought that his waiting would also end; but to his
irritated surprise he found that Helen's devotions were by no means
over. The other members of the congregation left the church, each
bestowing a curious glance on him in passing; but Helen knelt on, until
he began to suspect that she must be aware of his presence and was
endeavoring to avoid him. The thought inspired him with fresh energy
and obstinacy. "She shall not escape me. I will stay here until noon,
if necessary," he said to himself; while Helen, entirely unconscious of
who was behind, was sending up her simple petitions for submission and
patience and strength. They did not really last very long; and when she
rose, Rathborne rose also and stepped into the vestibule to await her.

His patience had no further trial of delay there. Within less than
a minute the door leading into the church opened and Helen's face
appeared. At the first instant of appearing, it had all the serenity
that comes from prayer; but when she saw him standing before her, this
expression changed quickly to one of distress. With something like a
gasp she said; "Paul!" pausing with the door in her hand.

Rathborne stepped forward, with his own hand extended. "Forgive me for
startling you," he said; "but this was my only chance to see you, and I
felt that I must do so."

"Why?" asked Helen. She closed the door, but did not give her hand.
"There is no reason, that I am aware of, why you should wish to see
me," she added, in a voice which trembled a little. "Everything has
been said that need be said between us."

"On your side, perhaps so," he answered; "but not on mine. I have said
nothing. You have given me no opportunity to say anything. You have
condemned me unheard."

"Condemned you! No," she replied. "I have never had any intention or
desire to condemn you. On the contrary, I said from the first that I
did not blame you for what was probably beyond your power to control.
But I desired that all might be ended between us; and, that being
so, there is nothing more to say on a subject that is--that must
be--painful to you as well as to me."

"It will not be painful if I can induce you to listen to me and to
believe me," he said. "That is what I have come this morning to beg of
you--the opportunity to set myself right. Appoint a time when I can
come and find you alone, or meet me where you will. Only give me the
opportunity to justify myself to you."

He spoke with an earnest pleading which was by no means simulated,
for he never lost the consciousness of how much for him depended upon
this; and that the pleading had an effect upon Helen was evident in her
growing pallor, in the look of pain that darkened her eyes. But she
answered, with a firmness on which he had not reckoned:--

"You should not ask of me something which could not serve any good end.
No explanation can alter facts, and I would rather not discuss them.
What happened was very natural. No one knows that better than I. But
nothing can efface it now."

"Not if you heard that I was led into folly by every possible art?" he
demanded, carried beyond self-control by the unforeseen difficulty of
bending one who had always before seemed so pliant to his influence.
"Not if I proved to you that your cousin--"

Helen lifted her hand with a gesture which had in it something of a
command. "Not another word like that," she said. "I will not listen to
it. If what you imply were true, how would it help matters? A man who
is weak enough to be led away by the art of another is as little to be
trusted as the man who deliberately breaks his faith. He may not be as
blamable--I do not say that,--but one could never repose confidence in
him again. That is over."

"Helen!" said Rathborne. He was amazed, almost confounded, by a dignity
of manner and tone which he had not only never seen in Helen before,
but of which he would not have believed her capable. He did not reckon
on the judgment and strength which earnest prayer had brought, nor did
it occur to him that the worst place he could have chosen for the
exertion of his influence was the threshold of the church, where day
after day she had come to beg for the direction that in such a crisis
would surely not be denied her. "I hardly know you," he went on, in the
tone of one deeply wounded. "How changed you are!--how cold! What has
become of the sweet and gentle Helen I have known and loved?"

She looked at him with the first reproach that had been in either tone
or glance. "The Helen you knew--who trusted you so absolutely and loved
you so well--is dead," she answered. "There is no need that we should
speak of her." She paused for an instant, and then, with her voice
breaking a little, went on: "I am going away--I may not see you again
in a long time. Meanwhile I will try, with the help of God, to forget
the past, and I beg you to do the same; for it can never be renewed.
And if you wish to spare me pain, you will never speak of it again."

Had Rathborne uttered what was in his mind, he would have replied that
whether he gave her pain or not was a matter of the utmost indifference
to him, if only he might gain his desired end. A sense of powerless
exasperation possessed him, the greater for his disappointment. He had
been so certain of bending Helen to his will whenever he met her alone;
yet now Helen stood before him like a rock, with immovable resolution
on her gentle face. He lost control of himself, and, stepping forward,
seized her by the hand.

"You are not speaking your own mind in this," he said. "You are
influenced by others, and I will not submit to it. The dictation of
your mother or your priest shall not come between us."

"Nothing has come between us except your own conduct and my own sense
of right," answered Helen. She grew paler still, but did not falter.
"It is best that we should part at once; for you have made me feel more
strongly that it is best we should part altogether. Let me go. You
forget where we are."

"You will not listen to me?--you will not give me an opportunity to
explain?"

"There is nothing to explain," she said, faintly; for the strain of the
interview was telling upon her. "Nothing can alter the fact of what I
heard. I could never trust you or believe in your affection after that.
Once for all, _everything is at an end between us_. Now let me go."

He released her with a violence which sent her back a step. "Go, then!"
he said. "I always knew that you were weak, but I never knew before how
weak. You are a puppet in the hands of others, and both you and they
shall regret this."

He left the vestibule; while she, after waiting for a moment to recover
herself, turned and re-entered the church.



CHAPTER XIV.


"And so, Brian, I find you as obstinate as ever!" said Mr. Singleton,
in a complaining tone.

The person whom he addressed smiled a little. He did not look very
obstinate, this pleasant-faced young man, with clear gray eyes, that
regarded the elder man kindly and humorously. They were sitting in
the latter's private room, which opened into the drawing-room--Mr.
Singleton leaning back in his deep, luxurious chair; Brian Earle seated
opposite him, but nearer the open window, through which his glance
wandered now and then, attracted by the soft summer scene outside,
flooded with the sunshine of late afternoon.

"I am sorry if it seems to you only a question of obstinacy," he said,
in a voice as pleasant as his face; "for that is the last thing I
should wish to be guilty of. Mere obstinacy--that is, attachment to
one's will simply because it is one's will--always seemed to me a very
puerile thing. My impulse is to do what another wishes rather than what
I wish myself--all things being equal."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Singleton, with the sarcastic inflection of voice
which was very common with him. "Then I am to suppose that, where I am
concerned, your impulse is exactly contrary to what it is in the case
of others; for certainly you have never consented to do anything that I
wish."

"My dear uncle, is that quite just, because I can not do _one_ thing
that you wish?"

"That one thing includes everything. You know it as well as I do. In
refusing that, you refuse all that I can or ever shall ask of you."

"I am sorry to hear it," said the other. "But do you not think that it
is a great thing to ask of a man to resign his own plan and mode of
life, to do violence to his inclination, and to give up not only his
ambition but his independence as well?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Singleton, "it _is_ a great deal; but I offer a
great deal also. You should not forget that."

"I do not forget it. You offer an immense price, but it is the price of
my freedom and my self-respect."

"In that case we will say no more about it," returned Mr. Singleton,
hotly. "If you consider that you would lose your freedom and your
self-respect by complying with my wishes--wishes which, I am sure, are
very moderate in their demands,--I shall certainly not urge you to do
so. We will consider the subject finally closed."

"With all my heart," said Earle. "It is a very painful subject to me,
because I regret deeply that I am unable to comply with your wishes."

Mr. Singleton made a wave of his hand which seemed peremptorily to
dismiss this regret. "Nothing would be easier than for you to gratify
me in the matter if you cared to do so. Since you do not desire to do
so, I shall cease to urge it. I have some self-respect, too."

To this statement Earle wisely made no reply, and he was also
successful in repressing a smile; though he knew well from past
experience that his uncle's resolution would not hold for a week,
and that the whole ground would have to be exhaustively gone over
again--probably again and again.

"You seem very pleasantly settled here," he observed after a moment, by
way of opening a new subject. "This is a charming old place."

"Yes. I should buy it if I expected to live long enough to make it
worth while," replied Mr. Singleton. "The climate here suits me
exceedingly well."

"And the people are agreeable, I suppose?" observed Earle, absently,
his eye fastened on the lovely alterations of light and shade--of the
nearer green melting into distant blue--which made up the scene without.

"I know little or nothing of the people of the town," said Mr.
Singleton; "but I meet a sufficient number of my old friends--brought
here, like myself, by the climate--to give me as much society
as I want. Tom and his wife have, of course, a large circle of
acquaintances; so you need entertain no fear of dullness in the short
time you are good enough to give me."

"Do you fancy that I am afraid of dullness?" asked Earle, with a laugh.
"On the contrary, no man was ever less inclined for society than I am.
But I like the look of the country about here, and I think I shall do
sketching."

"If you find sketching to do, there may be perhaps some hope of
detaining you for a little while," said Mr. Singleton.

"The length of my stay will not be in the least dependent on any
possible or probable sketching," returned Earle, good-humoredly. He
understood the disappointment which prompted Mr. Singleton to make
these sarcastic speeches; and they did not irritate him in the least,
but only inspired him with fresh regret that he could not do what was
desired of him. For he spoke truly in saying that, all things being
equal, he much preferred to do what another wished rather than what he
wished himself. This was part of a disposition which was amiable and
obliging almost to a fault. But with the amiability went great strength
of resolution, when he was once fairly roused; and this resolution had
been roused on a matter that he felt was a question of the independence
of his life. To do what his uncle asked would be to resign that
independence for an indefinite length of time--to give up the career on
which from earliest boyhood he had set his heart--to sell his liberty
for a mess of worldly pottage--that had no attraction for him.

A man who cares little for money beyond the amount necessary for
moderate competence, and who has no desire for wealth, is a character
so rare in this age and country that people are somewhat justified in
the incredulity with which they usually regard him. But now and then
such characters exist, and Brian Earle was one of them. Possessing
simple, almost austere tastes, having from his earliest boyhood a
passion for art, money had never appeared to him the supreme good which
it is considered to be by so many others; nor, in any real sense of the
word, a good at all. This was partly owing to the fact that he had
inherited fortune sufficient for all reasonable needs, and had no one
depending upon him. A man who has given hostages to fortune cannot be
as indifferent to fortune as one who has given none. Even if he lacks a
mercenary spirit, he must desire for those whose happiness rests in his
care the freedom from sordid anxieties which a monetary competency in
sufficient degree alone can give.

But Brian Earle, having no nearer relative than a married sister,
had nothing to teach him to value wealth in this manner; and, since
it could purchase nothing for which he cared, he felt no temptation
to accept Mr. Singleton's proposition that he should devote his life
exclusively to him, on consideration of inheriting his whole estate.
There were few people who would have hesitated over such an offer,
and who would not have been inclined to hold the man insane who did
hesitate. But Brian Earle did more than hesitate: he absolutely refused
it.

It said much for the influence of his personal character that, even
after this refusal, Mr. Singleton still evinced the partiality for his
society which he had always exhibited, still claimed as much of that
society as he possibly could, and generally consulted him when he had
a decision of importance to make. "Ten to one, Earle will finally get
the fortune as well as his own way," those who knew most of the matter
often remarked. But one person, at least, had no expectation of this,
and that was Earle himself.

His affection for his uncle and gratitude for much kindness, however,
made him show a deference and regard for the latter which had no basis
in interested hopes, and which Mr. Singleton was not dull enough to
mistake. Indeed there could be no doubt that his own regard for Earle
was largely based upon the fact that the young man desired nothing
from him, and was altogether independent of him, even while this
independence vexed and irked him. Perceiving at the present time that
the conversation had reached a point where it would be well that it
should cease, Brian rose to his feet.

"I think I will stroll about a little, and look into those
possibilities of sketching," he said. "I have scarcely glanced at the
place as yet."

"Probably some one is going to drive," observed Mr. Singleton. "There
are plenty of horses, and Tom and his wife keep them well employed. Of
course they are at your service also."

"I am accustomed to a humbler mode of locomotion, and really prefer
it," Brian answered. "One sees more on foot."

"I wish you had more expensive tastes," said his uncle. "One could get
a hold on you then."

He seemed to be speaking a thought aloud; but, as Earle had no desire
to be provoking, he did not utter in reply the quick assent, "Yes,
by no surer means than expensive tastes can a man sell himself into
bondage."

He went out, whistling softly, seized his hat in the hall, and was
crossing toward the entrance, when down the broad, curving staircase
came Mrs. Singleton in out-door costume. Probably the encounter was no
more to her taste than to his, but she successfully simulated pleasure,
which was more than he was able to do.

"You are just going out, Brian?" she said. "That is fortunate, for I
wanted to ask you to go to drive with us; but I knew you were with your
uncle, and he is so fond of your society that I did not like to disturb
you. But now you will come, of course. Only Miss Lynde and myself are
going. I believe you have not yet met Miss Lynde--ah, here she is!"

For, as they came out on the portico together, they found Marion
already there. Words of polite refusal were on Earle's lips--for had he
not just remarked that he did not care to drive?--but when his glance
fell on the beautiful girl, to whom Mrs. Singleton at once presented
him, those words found no expression. It was natural enough that, with
the delight of the artist in beauty, he should have felt that the
presence of such a face put the question of driving in a new aspect
altogether. It would be a pleasure to study that face, and a pleasure
to discover if the mind and the spirit behind were worthy of such a
shrine.

So, after handing the ladies into the open carriage that awaited them,
he followed, and took his seat opposite the face that attracted him,
as it had attracted the admiration of everyone who ever looked at it.
Marion herself was so accustomed to this admiration that the perception
of it in Earle's eyes neither surprised nor elated her. She took it
as a matter of course,--a matter which might or might not prove of
importance,--and meanwhile regarded rather curiously on her part the
man who carelessly put a fortune aside in order to follow his own will
and his own chosen path of life. On this remarkable conduct she had
already speculated more than once. Did it mean that he was a fool--as
Mrs. Singleton plainly thought,--or did it mean that he had a belief
in himself and in his own powers, which made him stronger than other
men, and therefore able to dispense with the aid which they so highly
desired?

She had not sat opposite him for many minutes before she was able
to answer the first question. Decidedly he was not a fool--not even
in that modified sense in which people of artistic, imaginative
temperaments are sometimes held to be fools by the strictly practical.
But with regard to the other question, decision was not so easy.
Nothing in his appearance, manner or speech indicated any extraordinary
belief in himself; but Marion had sufficient keenness of perception
to recognize that, under his unassuming quietness, power of some sort
existed. It might be the power to accomplish great things, or it might
only be the power to content himself with moderate ones; but it was
certainly not an altogether ordinary nature that looked out of the
clear gray eyes, and spoke in the pleasant voice.

"Where shall we go?" said Mrs. Singleton to Marion, when they had
rolled through Scarborough and were out in the country. "We must show
Brian all the points of picturesque interest in the vicinity. Do you
think we have time to drive to Elk Ridge?"

"Oh, no!" answered Marion, quickly; "it is too late to go there. And
I am sure there are other places nearer at hand which are quite as
pretty."

"Do you think so?" said Mrs. Singleton, skeptically. "Pray tell us
about them; for I know of no place half so charming in its surroundings
and view as Elk Ridge."

Marion colored a little. She really did not know of any other place
equal to Elk Ridge in picturesque attractions; but her dislike to the
idea of revisiting it was so strong that she had spoken instinctively,
without thought. She was always quick witted enough to see her way
out of a difficulty, however, and after an instant's hesitation she
answered:--

"I did not say that I positively knew of such a place, only that I was
sure it must exist, and probably near at hand. Why not? The country
seems to be very much the same in its features all about here."

Mrs. Singleton shrugged her shoulders.

"No one can be sure of what may or may not exist," she said; "but when
it is a question of looking for it, I prefer what has been already
discovered. We will not go to Elk Ridge, however, if you object. I am
afraid our gypsy tea must have left disagreeable associations behind
it."

Earle could not but observe that Marion's color deepened still more,
and that a slight tightening of the lines about her mouth showed that
her annoyance was greater than the nature of the subject seemed to
warrant. "Evidently some very disagreeable association in the matter!"
he thought; and, before she could reply to the last remark, he said:--

"Pray do not show me the best thing in the neighborhood at once. That
should be led up to by successive degrees. These lovely pastoral
meadows and those distant hills strike a note that suits me exactly
to-day. I do not care for anything more boldly picturesque."

"In that case, take the river road, Anderson," said Mrs. Singleton,
addressing the coachman, and settling herself comfortably under the
shade of her lace-covered parasol.

So, for several miles they bowled gently along the level road which
followed the margin of a beautiful stream, its soft valley spreading
in Arcadian loveliness around them; gentle green hills bounding it;
and far away, bathed in luminous mist, a vision of distant, purple
mountains.

Earle felt himself lapsed into a state of pleasant content. The
luxurious motion of the carriage, the charming scenes passing before
his eyes, the beautiful face opposite him, and the sound of musical
voices--one, at least, of which did not talk nonsense--all combined to
satisfy the artist which was so strong within him, and to make him feel
that the virtue which had brought him to Scarborough was rewarded.

As they re-entered the town, in the light of a radiant sunset, an
incident occurred which revealed a fact that astonished both Mrs.
Singleton and Marion. As they drove rapidly down a street, before them
on rising ground stood the Catholic church, with its golden cross in
bold relief outlined against the rose-red beauty of the evening sky.

"What a pretty effect!" cried Marion.

Earle turned in his seat to follow the direction of her glance, and,
seeing the cross, looked surprised. "What is that?" he said. "It looks
like a Catholic church."

"It _is_ a Catholic church," answered Marion.

He said nothing more, but as the carriage swept around a corner and
carried them in front of it, he looked toward the church and lifted his
hat.

This act of reverence would probably have had no meaning to Mrs.
Singleton, but Marion had lived too long with Catholics not to
understand it. "Oh!" she exclaimed, involuntarily, with an accent of
surprise; adding, when Earle looked at her, "is it possible you are a
Catholic!"

He smiled. "Does that astonish you?" he asked. "There are a good many
of them in the world."

"A Catholic!" repeated Mrs. Singleton, incredulously. "What
nonsense!--Of course he is not--at least not a _Roman_ Catholic!"

"Pardon me," he answered, still smiling, "but that is exactly what I
am--a Roman Catholic. For that is the only kind of Catholic which it is
worth any one's while to be."



CHAPTER XV.


"Oh, you must be mistaken, Anna!" said Tom Singleton, with his easy
good-nature. "Brian could not have told you in earnest that he is a
Catholic. The thing is absurd."

"Ask him for yourself, then," answered Mrs. Singleton. "You will soon
discover whether or not he is in earnest."

"I can not say that I feel interested in his religious opinions, so why
should I ask him?"

"In order to find whether or not I am mistaken, and in order to put
your uncle on his guard; for I am sure that he would not be pleased by
such a discovery."

"Then let him make it for himself," said Singleton. "It is no affair
of mine. I should feel like a sneak if I meddled with such a matter;
and, what is more, the old fellow would very quickly let me know that
he thought me one. Besides, it makes no difference. Earle is out of the
running. His own obstinacy settles that."

"Not so much as you think, perhaps," said the lady. "Why is he here if
the matter is settled? Believe it or not, his chance of inheriting the
fortune is better than yours to-day."

"Well, if so, let the best man win," returned Singleton,
philosophically. "I shall certainly not descend to any trickery to get
the better of him. Of course I am anxious for the fortune, but to show
my anxiety would be a very poor way to secure it. I firmly believe that
what makes my uncle lean so to Brian is that he does not appear to care
for anything that he can do for him."

"And in my opinion that indifference is all appearance," observed Mrs.
Singleton, sharply. "If he cares nothing for what your uncle can do,
why is he in attendance on him? But, however that may be, I shall see
that his extraordinary change of religion becomes known."

"If you go to my uncle with such information, you will only harm
yourself," said Singleton, warningly.

"I shall not think of going to him," she answered. "I know very well
that his sentiments toward me are not sufficiently cordial to make that
safe. I shall manage that Brian will give the information himself."

"If you take my advice, you will let the matter alone," said her
husband.

But he knew very well that she would not take his advice, and he said
to himself that it was well for her to do as she liked. She would not
be satisfied without doing so; and, after all, if Brian _had_ been so
foolish as to become a Roman Catholic, there was no objection to his
uncle's knowing it. Earle himself certainly did not desire secrecy, or
else he would not have mentioned the fact so openly and carelessly.

And, indeed, nothing was further from Earle's mind than any desire
for secrecy. Therefore, he fell with the readiest ease into the trap
which Mrs. Singleton soon laid for him. It was one evening, when the
household party was assembled in the drawing room after dinner, that
she led the conversation to foreign politics, and the position of the
Papacy in European affairs. Mr. Singleton, who took much more interest
than the average American usually does in these affairs, was speedily
led to express himself strongly against the Papal claim to temporal
sovereignty.

Earle looked up. "I think," he observed, in his pleasant but resolute
voice, "that you have, perhaps, never considered that question in its
true bearings."

"_I_ have never considered it in its true bearings!" said Mr.
Singleton, astonished beyond measure by this bold challenge; for he
regarded himself, and was regarded by his friends, as an authority on
the subject of European politics. "In that case will you be kind enough
to inform me what are its true bearings?"

The request was sarcastic, but Earle answered it with the utmost
seriousness. "Certainly," he said, "to the best of my ability." And,
before Mr. Singleton could disclaim any desire to be taken in earnest
he proceeded to state with great clearness the historical proofs and
arguments in favor of the Pope's sovereignty.

His little audience listened with a surprise which yielded, in spite of
themselves, to interest. The ideas and facts presented were all new to
them, and to one, at least, seemed unanswerable.

It has been already said that Marion had a mind free from prejudice;
she had also a mind quick and keen in its power of apprehension. She
caught the drift and force of Earle's statements before any one else
did, and said to herself, "That must be true!" Yet, even while she
listened with attention, it was characteristic of her that she also
observed with amusement the scene which the group before her presented.
Mr. Singleton, leaning back in his chair, was frowning with impatience,
and the air of one who through courtesy only lends an unwilling ear.
Tom Singleton was watching his cousin with an expression compounded
of surprise, curiosity, and an involuntary admiration; while Mrs.
Singleton looked down demurely at a fan which she opened and shut, her
lips wearing a smile of mingled amusement and gratification.

In the midst of this group Earle, with an air of the most quiet
composure, was laying down his propositions one after another,
unobservant of and indifferent to the expressions on the different
faces around him. "He is very brave," thought Marion; "but surely he
is also very foolish. Why should he unnecessarily contradict and vex
the old man, who can do so much for him?" A sense of irritation mingled
with the admiration which she could not withhold from him. "It would
have been easy to say nothing," she thought again; "and yet how well he
speaks!"

He did indeed speak well--so well that the attention of Mr. Singleton
was gradually drawn from the matter to the manner of his speech. He
turned and looked keenly at the young man from under his bent brows.

"You speak," he said, "like an advocate of the cause. How is that?"

"I hope that I should be an advocate of any cause which I believed to
be just," answered Brian, quietly; "but I am in a special manner the
advocate of this, because I am a Catholic."

"A Catholic!" Mr. Singleton looked as if he could hardly believe the
evidence of his ears. "It is not possible that you mean a _Romanist_?"

Earle bent his head, smiling a little. "I mean just that," he said; "or
at least what _you_ mean by that. The term is neither very correct nor
very courteous, but it expresses the fact clearly enough."

This coolness had the usual effect of provoking Mr. Singleton, yet of
making him feel the uselessness of expressing vexation. It was evident
that his disgust was as great as his surprise, but he waited a moment
before giving expression to either. Then he said, curtly:--

"It is no affair of mine what you choose to call yourself, but I should
have more respect for your sense if you told me you were a Buddhist."

"Very likely," returned Earle, with composure; "for in that case I
should be following the last whim of fashionable intellectual folly.
But, you see, I thought it more sensible to go back to the old faith of
our fathers."

"You might have gone back to paganism, then," sneered the other. "That
was the faith of our fathers also."

"Very true," assented the young man; "and in that also I should have
been following a large train. But I was not in search of a faith simply
because it had been that of my fathers. I was in search of a faith
which bore the marks of truth, and I found it to be that which some of
my fathers unfortunately discarded."

"And you have absolutely joined the Church of Rome?" demanded Mr.
Singleton, with ominous calmness.

"Yes," Earle replied, as calmly; "some months ago."

The elder man took up a newspaper. "In that case," he observed, in a
tone of icy coldness, "I have nothing more to say. The step is one with
which I have no sympathy and very little tolerance; but, fortunately,
it does not concern me at all."

Mrs. Singleton shot a glance at her husband, which Marion saw was
one of triumph. She knew instantly that the conversation which led
to Earle's avowal had not been a matter of accident. "What a pretty
trick!" she said, mentally, and, with a sudden impulse to show her
sympathy with courage, she addressed the young man:--

"You have at least the pleasure of knowing, Mr. Earle, that you belong
to the same faith as most of the best and many of the greatest people
of the world."

Earle looked at her with surprise. Such a speech, under the
circumstances, was the last he could have expected from her; for,
notwithstanding the glamour of her beauty, he had read her accurately
enough to perceive her worldliness, and her desire for all that the
world could give. He knew that she was a favorite of his uncle's,
and could not have imagined that she would brave the displeasure of
the latter in a manner so unnecessary. Perhaps Mr. Singleton was
also surprised--at least he glanced up at her quickly, while Earle
answered:--

"It is a deeper satisfaction still to believe that it is a faith which
has made the best of those people what they are, and which can derive
no lustre from the greatest."

"I have always observed that Roman Catholics are very enthusiastic
about their religion," said Mrs. Singleton; "but I did not know before,
Marion, that you inclined that way."

"What way?" asked Marion, coolly. "To enthusiasm or to Catholicity? As
a matter of fact, I do not incline to either. But I have seen a great
deal of Catholics, and admire many things about them. Indeed, all of my
best friends belong to that religion."

"Then we may expect you to follow in Brian's footsteps before long,"
said the lady, with malicious sweetness.

"There is nothing that I am aware of more improbable," replied Marion.

She rose then, conscious that the conversation, if carried farther,
might develop more unpleasantness, and moved toward the piano. Earle
followed her, in order to lift the lid of the instrument, and as he did
so said, smilingly:--

"I think you are quite right to endeavor to restore harmony by sweet
sounds. Is it not extraordinary that there should be no such potent
cause of discord in the world as a question of religion?"

"I suppose it is because people feel more strongly on that subject
than on any other," she answered, looking up at him, and wondering a
little that a man so young, with all the world before him, and all its
ambitions to tempt him, should think of religion at all.

The next day she found an opportunity to say this frankly. During
the morning she strolled into the garden with a book, and there
encountered Earle, leaning on a stone-wall that skirted the lower
boundaries of the grounds, sketching a pretty meadow and group of trees
beyond. She came upon him unobserved--for he was standing with his back
to the path along which she advanced,--and the sound of her clear,
musical voice was the first intimation he had of her presence.

"How rapidly you sketch, Mr. Earle, and how well!" she said.

He started and turned, to find her standing so near that she overlooked
his work. She smiled as his astonished eyes met her own. "Do I disturb
you?" she asked. "If so I will go away."

"You have certainly not disturbed me up to the present moment," he
answered. "Have you been here long?"

"Only a few minutes. You were so absorbed that you did not observe me,
and I was so interested in watching you that I did not care to speak.
But if I disturb you--"

"Why should you disturb me if you care to stay? You will not obstruct
my view of the meadow or trees. It is a pretty little scene, is it not?"

"Very," she answered, moving to the wall, at which she paused, a few
feet distant from him, and laid her book down on the ledge which it
conveniently presented. Then she stood silent for a minute, looking
at the shadow-dappled landscape, and conscious of a sense of pique,
provoked by the cool indifference of his reply. She knew that to many
men her presence _would_ obstruct their view of the fairest scene
nature might present, and she could perceive no reason why this man
should be different from them,--why her beauty, which his artist-glance
had evidently appreciated, seemed to have so little effect upon him.
Her vanity had become more insistent in its demands, from the homage
which had been offered her; and the withholding this homage had already
become a thing insufferable. But she was far too proud to show this, as
many weaker women do; and, after a short interval, she said, lightly
enough:--

"What a very great pleasure it must be when one is able to set down
beauty as you are doing--to preserve and make it one's own! I have a
friend who loves art devotedly--in fact, she is a true artist,--and I
have always the same feeling when I watch her at work."

"The power is certainly a great delight," said Earle, going on with
his rapid strokes; "but you must not imagine that it is all delight.
There is a great deal of drudgery in this as in all other arts; and,
worse still, there are times of infinite disgust as well as profound
discouragement."

"So Claire used to say--at least, she spoke of discouragement, but I
never heard her speak of disgust."

"Claire!" Earle looked at her now with his quick, bright glance. "I
wonder if I do not know of whom you speak. There can hardly be more
than one Claire who is a true artist."

"There may be a hundred, for aught I know," replied Marion, carelessly;
"but I mean Claire Alford. Her father was a distinguished artist, I
believe. You may have heard of him."

"Everyone has heard of him, I imagine," returned Earle, a little
dryly; "but I knew him well in my boyhood, and he did more than any one
else to fan whatever artistic flame I possess. I was, therefore, very
glad when I chanced to meet his daughter about a month ago."

"You met Claire? That can hardly be! She is abroad."

"I met her a few days before she sailed. The lady with whom she has
gone, and with whom she was then staying, is the widow of an artist
whom I knew, and is herself a great friend of mine."

"And so you have met Claire! I really don't know why it should surprise
me, yet it does. What did you think of her? I ask the question without
hesitation, because I know it is impossible for any one to think ill of
her, and the well is only in proportion as you know or divine her."

"I am sure of that," said Earle, with a kindly smile for the speaker.
"She charmed me at first sight: she is so simple, so candid, so
unconscious of herself, so evidently intent upon high aims."

"Yes, she is all of that," replied Marion. Involuntarily her voice fell
as she thought of how little any word of this commendation could be
applied to herself. "Did you find out that you had something in common
beside your love of art?" she asked, after an instant. "Claire is a
fervent Catholic."

"Is she?" he said, with interest. "No, I did not discover it. Nothing
brought up the subject of religion. But I am not surprised. There is an
air about her that made me call her in my own mind a vestal of art. I
can easily realize that she is something more and better than that."

"It is a pretty name, and suits her well--a vestal of art," said
Marion. She was silent then for a minute or two, and stood looking with
level gaze from under the broad brim of her sun-hat at the pastoral
meadow-scene, unconscious for once what a picture she herself made, as
she leaned on the stone-wall, with a spreading mulberry-tree throwing
its chequered shade down upon her graceful figure. Artist instinct drew
Earle's eyes upon her, and he was saying to himself, "How much I should
like to sketch her! Shall I ask her permission to do so?" when she
suddenly turned her face toward him and spoke.

"Do you know, Mr. Earle," she said, "that you astonished me very
much last night? For the matter of that"--with a slight laugh,--"I
suppose you astonished everyone. But I am bold enough to express my
astonishment, because I should really like to know what you meant."

"I shall be very happy to tell you," Earle answered, "if you will give
me an idea what _you_ mean."

"I mean this. Why did you vex Mr. Singleton by unnecessary
contradiction, and an unnecessary avowal of what you knew would annoy
if it did not seriously alienate him?"

The young man regarded her with surprise. "Simply because I had no
alternative," he replied. "Nothing was further from my desire than to
vex him. But why, in the name of all that is reasonable, should people
be vexed by hearing the truth? Is not that what we all wish, ostensibly
at least--to learn and to believe _the truth_ about a thing, not mere
fancies or ideas?"

"Ye--s," said Marion, hesitatingly. "I suppose no one would acknowledge
that he did not wish to know the truth; but you are aware that nothing
is more offensive than the truth to people who have strong convictions
against it."

"So much the worse for such people, then."

"And so much the worse sometimes for those who persist in enforcing
enlightenment upon them."

"I really do not think that is my character," he said. "I have never,
to my knowledge, attempted to force enlightenment upon any one. But
sometimes--as was the case last night--one must speak (even when
speaking will serve no end of conviction), or be guilty of cowardice
and tacit deception."

Marion shook her head, in protest, apparently, against these views; but
probably she felt the uselessness of combating them. At least when she
spoke again it was to say, abruptly:--

"But how on earth do you chance to take that particular view of truth?"



CHAPTER XVI.


Earle smiled. "The answer to that is contained in what I remarked a
moment ago," he said. "I wanted _truth itself_, not my own or anybody's
else views or fancies concerning it."

Marion looked at him with a gravity on her face which gave it a new
character altogether. "And do you really think that you found this
absolute truth in the Catholic faith?" she asked.

"I do not think so--I _know_ it," he answered. "It is there or nowhere.
I satisfied myself of that."

"But how did you come to care enough about it to think of satisfying
yourself?" she persisted. "That is what puzzles me most. The Catholic
faith may be true--I can readily believe it is,--but how did you, a
young man with the world all before you, ever come to care whether it
were true or not?"

He regarded her silently for a moment before replying. It seemed as if
he found it difficult to answer such words as these. At length he said:
"Is there any special reason why a young man, even if it were true that
he had all the world before him--and it is true in a very limited sense
of me,--should not think occasionally of the most important subject in
the world, and should not desire to think rightly?"

"Of course there is no reason why he should not," she replied. "Only
it seems unnatural. One fancies him thinking of other things. In his
place, _I_ should think of other things."

"May I ask what they would be?"

"I am sure you can hardly need to ask. Even if you have no ambition
yourself, you must realize its existence; you must know how it makes
men desire fame and power and wealth for the sake of the great
advantages they bring. In your place, I should think of making a name,
of conquering fortune, of enjoying all that the world offers."

"Well," he said, after a short pause--during which he had gone on with
the rapid, practiced strokes of his pencil,--"all that is natural
enough, and there is no harm in it unless one wished to enjoy some of
the unlawful things which the world offers. But why should one not do
all this--make a name and conquer fortune--and still give some thought
to the great question of one's final end and destiny?"

She made a slight gesture of impatience. "You know very well," she
said, "that, as a matter of fact, an ambitious man has no time for
considering such questions."

"That depends entirely upon the man. You should not make your
assertions so sweeping. In these days, at least, no man of thought--no
man who is at all interested in intellectual questions--can ignore the
subject of religion. Let me illustrate my meaning. Would you have been
surprised to learn that I were an Agnostic or a Positivist?"

"No," she replied, somewhat reluctantly. "That would have been
different."

"Only different because they are fashionable creeds of the hour, and it
is considered a proof of intellectual strength to stultify reason, and,
in the face of the accumulated proofs of ages, to declare that man can
know nothing of his origin or his end. But when, on the contrary, one
accepts a logical and luminous system of thought, a revelation which
offers an explanation of the mystery of being entirely consistent with
reason, you think that very remarkable! Forgive me, Miss Lynde, if I
say that I find your opinion quite as remarkable as you can find my
faith."

She blushed, but answered haughtily: "That may be. It was no doubt
presumptuous of me to express any opinion on the subject. I really
don't know why I did it, except that I was so much surprised, in the
first place by the fact that you had thought of the matter, and in the
second place by the avowal which vexed your uncle."

"I am sorry to have vexed him," said Earle, quietly; "but he is too
much of a philosopher to allow it to trouble him long--indeed I have no
idea that it has troubled him at all."

She did not answer, but the expression in her eyes was one of so much
wonder that he smiled. "What is it now?" he asked. "What are you still
surprised at?"

"I hardly like to tell you," she replied. "I feel as if I had already
said too much--"

"By no means. I like frankness, of all things; especially if I may be
allowed to imitate it."

She smiled in spite of herself. "That," she said, "is certainly
as little as one could allow. Well, then, I confess that I do not
understand why you should refuse to accept the fortune which Mr.
Singleton evidently wishes so much to give you. Have you conscientious
scruples against holding wealth?"

"Not the faintest. I would accept a million, if it came to me
unfettered by conditions which would make even a million too dearly
bought."

"Such as--?"

"What my uncle asks--that I give up everything which interests me in
life, and devote myself to him as long as he lives."

"But he cannot live long. And then--"

"Then I should be a rich man. But, as it chances, I do not care about
being a rich man. Money can not buy anything which I desire. It cannot
give me the proficiency in art which must be won by long and hard
study."

"It would make that study unnecessary."

"Unnecessary!" He glanced at her with something of her own wonder,
dashed by faint scorn. "Do you think that I consider _making money_ the
end of my art? So far from that, I would starve in a garret sooner than
lower my standard for such an object. And, insensibly perhaps, I should
lower it if I had a great deal of money. No man can answer for himself.
Therefore, I have no desire to be tempted. And I repeat that money can
buy nothing which I value most."

"Do you not value power? It can buy that."

"In a very poor form. I am not sure that I should care for it in its
best form, but certainly not in that which money buys."

"Money is the lever which moves the world," she said; "and it is only
because you have never known the real want of it that you hold it so
lightly."

"I have sometimes thought that myself," he replied. "It is true that
only a starving man properly appreciates bread. I have never starved,
and it may be that I am not properly grateful for mine; but, at least,
I try neither to undervalue nor overvalue it."

"Some day," she said, "you may find an object which money would have
helped you to gain, and then you will regret the folly--forgive me if I
speak plainly--which threw away such a great power."

"I should have to change very much," he replied, "before I could care
for any object which money would help me to gain."

"There is nothing more likely than that you will change on that point.
If there is anything that life teaches, it is that there is scarcely a
single object which money will not help us to gain."

He looked at her with a curious surprise, which he did not attempt to
conceal. "Forgive _me_," he said, "if I speak too plainly; but there
is a remarkable want of harmony between your appearance and your
utterances. If one listened with closed eyes, one might fancy that a
man of fifty spoke in behalf of the god to whom he had devoted his
life. But when one looks at you--"

"You are surprised that such sentiments should come from one who ought
to be ignorant of every reality of life," she observed, coolly, as he
paused. "But I learned something about those realities at a very early
age. I know how the want of money has embittered my life; I know how it
lays on me now fetters under which I chafe; and therefore, by right of
the experience which you lack, I tell you that you will live to regret
the loss of the fortune you are throwing away."

"No man can speak with absolute certainty of the future; but, if I know
myself at all, I do not think I shall ever regret it."

She shrugged her shoulders slightly. "In that case you will be an
extraordinary man," she said. "But I feel as if I should beg your
pardon for having fallen into such a personal vein of discussion."

"I do not think that the responsibility rests with you," he answered.
"But if you consider that you owe me an apology, I can point out an
immediate way to make amends. Ever since you have been standing there,
I have been longing to make a sketch of you. Will you allow me to do
so?"

"Certainly," she said, smiling; for the request flattered her vanity.

So, while she stood in the sunshine and shadow, a charming picture of
youth and grace, he sketched her, feeling with every stroke the true
artist appreciation of her beauty; and more and more surprised at
her intelligence as they talked of art and literature, of people and
events, while time flew by unheeded.

Meanwhile Mr. Singleton was certainly wroth with his favorite. The
latter's change of religion--or, to be more correct, his choice of
religion--was the last of many offenses; and the old man said to
himself that, so far as he was concerned, it should indeed be the
last. "The boy is a fool, besides being obstinate and ungrateful!"
he thought, with what he felt to be righteous indignation, and which
(knowing his own weakness in regard to Earle) he strove to encourage
and fan into enduring anger. "But I am glad I have discovered this in
time--very glad! Though he has refused so positively to do anything
that I wish, there is no telling what weakness I might have been guilty
of when it came to the point of making my will. But now I am safe. My
money shall never go into the hands of the Jesuits--that I am resolved
upon. And, of course, they would soon obtain it from Brian, who has no
appreciation whatever of its value. Yes, my mind is settled at last on
that score. He shall never inherit anything from me; but where on earth
am I to find a satisfactory legatee to take his place?"

The consideration of this question, and the difficulty of answering
it, produced in old Mr. Singleton a state of temper which made life a
burden, for the time being, to all his personal attendants. While Earle
was philosophically setting forth his views to Marion at the bottom
of the garden, the valet and the nurse were having a very hard time
in getting the fractious invalid ready for the day; and when he was
finally established in his sitting-room, he probably remembered the
soothing power of music, and asked for Miss Lynde.

Diligent search having revealed the fact that Miss Lynde was not in the
house, Mr. Singleton wanted to know if any one could tell him where
she had gone. Mrs. Singleton, being interrogated, professed utter
ignorance; but one of the maids volunteered the information that from
an upper window she had seen Miss Lynde in the garden with Mr. Earle.
That had been an hour before. "Go to the same window and see if she is
there yet," ordered Mr. Singleton when this was communicated to him.
Observation duly made, and a report brought to him that she was still
there, "Shall I send for her, sir?" inquired his servant.

"No," snapped the irate old gentleman. "What do you mean by such a
question? Why should I wish to disturb Miss Lynde? I simply desired to
satisfy myself where she was. When she comes in, let her know that I
would like to see her."

Left alone then, he opened his newspapers with a softening of the lines
about his mouth. After all, a way might be found of managing Brian. The
influence of a beautiful woman might accomplish what his own influence
had failed to do. Marion would make a capital wife for the young man.
"Just the wife he needs," thought Mr. Singleton. "A woman of ambition,
of cleverness, and of worldly knowledge quite remarkable in one so
young. No danger of _her_ under-valuing money, and the Jesuit would
be very sharp who could get it from her. Why did I not think of this
before? Of course he will fall in love with her--what man could avoid
doing so?--and, in that event, everything can be arranged. _She_ will
bring him to my terms soon enough."

These reflections had so soothing an effect upon his temper that
when Marion came in, and was told by Mrs. Singleton that _he_ (with
a significant gesture toward the apartment of the person indicated)
was in the mood of a tiger, and demanding her presence, she was most
agreeably surprised at being received with extreme kindness.

"I am told you have been asking for me. I am sorry to have been out of
the way," she said.

"I wanted to ask you to sing for me," he replied. "My nerves are in an
irritated state this morning, and I felt as if your voice might soothe
them. But I am not unreasonable enough to expect you to be always on
hand to gratify my fancies. It was well that you were out enjoying this
beautiful morning."

"I was only in the garden. You might have sent for me. I should have
been delighted to come and sing for you. Shall I do so now?"

"After a little. Sit down and let me talk to you for a few minutes.
I suppose you can imagine what it is that gave me a particularly bad
night, and has set my nerves on edge this morning?"

"I am afraid that it is worry," said Marion, sitting down near him.
"You did not like what Mr. Earle said last night."

"I certainly did not like it. The announcement he made was a great
surprise to me and a great shock. Under any circumstances, I should be
sorry for any one in whom I felt an interest to take such a step; but
you are probably aware that I have felt a peculiar interest in Brian."

"I have heard that your intentions toward him have been most kind."

"I have desired that he shall take with me the place of a son. I have
asked him to accept the duties of such a position--duties that would
not be very heavy,--and I have promised that, in return, he shall
inherit everything that is mine. Do you think that an unreasonable
proposal?"

"Very far from it," answered Marion. "I think it most reasonable and
most kind. I can not understand how he can hesitate over it."

"He does not hesitate," said Mr. Singleton, bitterly: "he refuses it.
After that I ought to be willing to let him go; but the truth of the
matter is, I have no one to take his place. He is not only my nearest
relative, but there is something about him that attaches one to him
despite one's self. My dear"--he looked wistfully, yet keenly, into the
beautiful face,--"it has occurred to me that perhaps _you_ might have
some influence over him."

"I!" exclaimed Marion. For a moment her surprise was so great that she
could say nothing more. Then, with the realization of his meaning, a
wave of color came into her face. "I have no reason to suppose that I
have the least influence with Mr. Earle," she said. "If I had, I would
gladly use it for the ends about which you are so anxious."

"I am sure of that," observed Mr. Singleton, significantly. "Well, all
I can say is that nothing would please me more than for you to acquire
such influence. If you should acquire it, and if you should consent to
use it always, I would be a very delighted old man. You understand me,
I see, so I need say no more. Now go and sing for me."



CHAPTER XVII.


Mr. Singleton was wise enough to remain satisfied with having expressed
his wishes to Marion. He said nothing to Earle, having a general
conviction that "in vain is the snare spread in sight of any bird," and
a knowledge of this particular bird which warned him to be cautious.
But the idea which had occurred to him seemed so likely to produce the
desired result, that he was greatly encouraged by it, and his manner to
his nephew was so different from what Mrs. Singleton had anticipated,
that she said to herself with much chagrin that Tom was right after
all, and she had gained nothing by the disclosure she had brought about.

Earle himself was pleased that his uncle showed no coldness of feeling
toward him. He had fully expected this; and, while the anticipation had
not troubled him in any serious manner, he was relieved to find that he
was to be spared that sense of alienation which is always a trial to a
person of sensitive feelings.

What he would have thought had his uncle at this time frankly avowed to
him the plan he had conceived, it is not difficult to imagine. What he
would have done is no less easy to conjecture. But, left in ignorance,
and exposed to an association which would have had attractions for
any one, he unconsciously drifted toward a position destined to lead
to serious results. For while Marion repelled she also attracted him,
through the interest he felt in a character so strongly marked for
good or for evil, and by the very frankness with which she displayed
traits and expressed sentiments with which he had little sympathy. "It
is a fine character warped and distorted," he said to himself. "Good
influences might do much with it. What a pity if she drifts deeper
into the worldliness that now attracts her so greatly! For there is
nothing frivolous about her, and she will find in the end that none but
frivolous people can be contented with the things for which she longs."

Now, there are a few people who, brought into contact with a character
of which they think in this manner, do not feel inclined to exert the
influence that they believe would be beneficial. And how much more
when the person on whom it is to be exerted is a young, a beautiful
and a clever woman! Whether he approved of her or not, Earle could not
fail to find Marion a stimulating and agreeable companion. The absence
of effort to attract--for she was far too proud to make this--lulled
to rest any fear of the result of such an association to himself;
and their morning conversation in the garden was the beginning of an
intercourse which grew daily more pleasant on both sides.

Mr. Singleton had been the first to see the probable end, but it was
not long before others foresaw it also. "I told you that girl would
betray us," said Mrs. Singleton to her husband. "She means to marry
Brian Earle and take our place. That is clear."

"But there may be two words to that," said the gentleman addressed.
"Brian may not intend to marry _her_. He was talking of his plans to me
while we were smoking last night, and there was not a word of marrying
in them."

"That much for his plans!" said Mrs. Singleton, with a slight,
contemptuous gesture. "They will soon be whatever Marion Lynde chooses.
When a woman like her makes up her mind to marry a man, she will
succeed. You may be sure of that."

"Rather a bad lookout for men, in such a case," returned Mr. Singleton.
"Only if the power is limited to women like Miss Lynde, one might bear
it with philosophy."

His wife gave him a look compounded of scorn and irritation. "There
is not much doubt what you would do in Brian Earle's place. That girl
seems to turn the head of every man she comes in contact with. I am
sure I wish I had never heard of her!"

"I fancy Rathborne wishes the same thing," observed Mr. Singleton. "I
never saw a man so changed as he is of late; I met him yesterday, and I
was struck by his moody looks."

Mrs. Singleton shrugged her shoulders. "I have no compassion to spare
for him. A man who has been such a fool as he has, deserves to suffer.
But we have done nothing to deserve to be supplanted in this way."

"Well," said the more reasonable husband, "it is hardly just to talk
of being 'supplanted.' The old fellow has always been very frank with
me, and insisted there should be no room for misconception. We have an
agreeable home without any expense to ourselves, but he has always
told me that he did not bind himself to leave me anything at all."

"Of course he would not bind himself; but if Brian refuses to be his
heir--and that is what his conduct heretofore amounts to,--whose chance
should be better than yours?"

"Really it is hard to say. Who can account for the whims of rich old
men? He may cut us all off, and leave his fortune to Miss Lynde."

"If I thought so," said Mrs. Singleton, fiercely, "I would murder her--"

"Come, Anna, that is beyond a joke!"

"Or myself, for having brought her to his notice."

"Defer both murders until you find out whether there is any need for
them," said her provoking husband. And then he beat a hasty retreat.

But even he, now that his eyes were opened, began to perceive the
extreme probability of all that his wife suggested. There was no doubt
of the fact that Marion and Earle were constantly together, that they
seemed to find much gratification in each other's society, and that Mr.
Singleton (this was patent to the most careless observation) looked on
approvingly at their growing intimacy. "The old fellow wants to see
the thing brought about," said Tom Singleton to himself. "He thinks it
would tie Brian down, and that a wife with such ideas would soon cure
him of his contempt for riches. Well, he's right enough; and since it
is most likely to come about, Anna and I may make up our minds that our
day is nearly over. We shall soon have to step down to make room for
Mrs. Brian Earle."

The young lady designated in advance by this title was herself
entirely of his opinion. At this time a rosy vista opened before her.
She felt that all which she most desired was within her grasp. And yet
not exactly in the manner she had anticipated. For, much as she had
always longed for the power which wealth gives, it had not been her
dream to obtain wealth by marriage. That seemed to her a means too
commonplace, and also too degrading. It was to be won through her own
effort, her own cleverness, in some manner as vaguely outlined as a
fairy-tale. But she was too shrewd not to perceive, after a very brief
acquaintance with life, that for a young girl, without some special and
brilliant talent, to hope to _make_ a fortune was as reasonable as if
she had thought of building a tower with her own hands. She realized,
then, that it was a wonderful prospect which opened before her, as if
by the stroke of an enchantress' wand, in the fancy of Mr. Singleton
for herself, and in the fact that Earle excited her regard in a degree
she had hardly imagined possible. Once, with mocking cynicism, she had
asked of Helen, "Do you think such good fortune ever befalls one, as
that the man one could love is also the man it is expedient for one
to marry?" And now that good fortune, so utterly disbelieved in, had
befallen herself!

For the very things in which Earle was least like herself attracted her
most. He was an embodiment of ideas which, abstractly, were too exalted
for her to reach. His faith, his unworldliness, his devotion to noble
ends,--all touched the higher side of her own nature, like strains of
heroic poetry. Under his immediate influence, she began to change in
a manner as strange as it was significant. Keen eyes noted this, and
Mrs. Singleton said to herself that the girl was capable of playing
any part, even of pretending to be quixotic and unworldly. But in this
she did her injustice. With all its great faults, Marion's character
possessed the saving salt of sincerity, and she was absolutely
incapable of playing a part for any purpose whatever. The change in
her just now was real; there only remained a question whether or not
it were deep,--whether human love alone were great enough to work the
miracle of regenerating a nature into which worldliness had struck such
strong roots.

The test was not long delayed. As the time for Earle's visit drew to
a close, he began to realize how decidedly he had suffered himself
to be drawn toward this girl, whom his judgment at first so greatly
disapproved, and whom it could not even yet altogether approve;
although he was not blind to the change in her wrought by his
influence,--a change which unconsciously flattered him, as any proof
of power flatters this poor human nature of ours. He found, somewhat
to his dismay, that he was more attached to her than he had been aware
of, but he had no intention of declaring his feeling. Judgment was
still too much arrayed against it. And this being so, he resisted the
temptation to prolong his visit, and adhered to the original date set
for his departure. Now, since this departure was not only to be from
Scarborough, but from America, Mr. Singleton was very anxious that it
should be prevented, and he watched with growing anxiety the intimacy
with Marion, from which he hoped so much.

"My dear," he said to her one day when they were alone together, and
she had been singing for him, "I wish you would exert your influence
with Brian to keep him from going abroad. It would be much better that
he should remain here."

"There can be no doubt of that," she replied. "But you mistake in
thinking that I have any influence with him. If I had, I would use it
as you desire."

"I am afraid," he observed, "that you underrate your influence. I think
you have more than you suppose."

"No," she said. "I have always been accustomed to influencing those
around me, and therefore I know very well when I fail to do so. I fail
with Mr. Earle. He has no respect for my opinion, as indeed"--with
unwonted humility--"why should he have?"

The man of the world uttered a contemptuous laugh. "Do you really, with
all your cleverness, know so little of men as to fancy that respect for
a woman's opinion is a necessary part of her influence?" he asked.

"With most men I suppose it is not," she answered; "but with Mr. Earle
it is. I am sure of that, and also sure that I should not care to
influence a man who had no respect for my opinion."

"_That_ opinion is not worthy of your good sense," said Mr. Singleton.
"It does not matter at all _how_ one influences people, so that one
actually does manage to influence them. The important point is to
succeed."

"Have you found it an easy thing to succeed with Mr. Earle?" asked
Marion, a little maliciously.

"Very far from it," replied Mr. Singleton. "There is only one way to
influence him, and that is through his affections. For one to whom he
is attached, he will do much."

The last words were so significant that Marion colored and said no
more. But she determined that she would test whether or not they were
true, since she had by this time little doubt of Earle's sentiments
toward her.

She had not long to wait for an opportunity. The next morning Earle
asked if she would not go with him to complete a sketch that he was
making of a bit of woodland scenery near the house. "A morning's
work will finish it," he said. "And since I shall not have many more
mornings, if you care to come, I shall be very glad."

"You know I always like to come," she answered. "It is interesting to
me to watch your work. I feel as if I were witnessing the process of
creation."

"You are witnessing _a_ process of creation," he said. "Art is a ray
of the divine genius which created nature, and, in its degree, it is
creative also. That is the secret of its great fascination."

"It certainly seems to possess a great fascination for you," she said,
as he slung his color-box over his shoulder and they set forth.

"Do you wonder at it?" he asked, with a quick glance.

"No; I do not wonder at the fascination," she replied. "I only wonder
that you think it right to sacrifice everything else to it."

"What do I sacrifice to it?" he asked. "A little money for which I have
no use. Is not that all?"

She shook her head. "By no means all. You sacrifice the dearest wish
of your uncle, who is devoted to you--the power of giving him great
pleasure, and the power also of doing much good with the money you
despise. Have you ever thought of that?"

"Yes," he answered, "I have thought of it all. I have seriously asked
myself if there is any duty demanding that I should comply with his
wishes, and I have decided that there is none. He is certainly attached
to me, but I think that his attachment rests very much on the fact that
he can not control me as he is accustomed to control most people. There
is no real congeniality of sentiment between us. He is a man of the
world; I am a man to whom the world counts very little. I can not feign
interest in the things which interest him, and he scorns all that most
deeply interests me. Under these circumstances, what pleasure to either
of us would be gained by closer association? And you know it is out of
my power to do him any real service."

"I am not sure of that," said Marion. "I think you scarcely appreciate
either his strong attachment to you or his strong desire that you
should remain with him."

"Has he been asking you to be his advocate?" said Earle, with a smile.
"It sounds very much as if he had."

"He has been talking to me of the matter," she answered. "You know it
is very near his heart, and he speaks to me more freely than to you;
for, naturally, he is wounded by your refusal, and is too proud to
acknowledge to you how much he cares."

"And he thinks, no doubt, that what you say will have a weight which
his words lack."

"There is no reason why he should think so," said Marion, rather
proudly.

They had by this time reached the place of their destination; and,
as he put down the portable easel which he carried, she turned away,
saying to herself that it was indeed true--there was no reason why
any one should think that her words had the least weight with this
immovable man. Some hot tears of mortification gathered in her eyes.
She had hoped for a different result, and the disappointment, from the
proof of her own lack of power, was greater than she had anticipated.
She bent down to gather some ferns on the bank of a little stream which
flowed through the glen, and when she rose Earle was standing beside
her.

"I fear that perhaps you misunderstood my last words," he said, with
grave gentleness. "I did not mean to imply that my uncle was mistaken
in thinking that what you say would have great weight with me. He is
too shrewd not to be sure of that. I only gave him credit for choosing
his advocate well. For you must know that what you wish has great
influence with me."

"Why should I know it?" said Marion, in a low tone.

"Because," he answered, "you must know that I love you."



CHAPTER XVIII.


A very gratified man was Mr. Singleton when he heard how matters stood
between Marion and his nephew. Indeed, with regard to the latter, his
feeling was chiefly one of exultation. "Now I have you!" he said to
himself; and it was with difficulty that he refrained from uttering
this sentiment when Earle announced the fact of his engagement. What he
did say was:--

"I am delighted, my dear boy--delighted! You could not have pleased me
better. Miss Lynde is a girl to do credit to any man's taste, and to
any position to which she may be raised. Her family is unexceptionable;
and as for fortune--well, you have no need to think of that."

Brian smiled. "I have not thought of it," he said; "but I fear she may
think a little of the fact that I have not much to offer her. To become
the wife of a struggling artist is not a very brilliant prospect for
one of her ambition."

Mr. Singleton frowned. So, after all, the thing had not settled itself,
but was to be fought over again! "You must surely be jesting when you
speak of such a prospect for her," he observed. "You must feel that
marriage brings responsibility with it; and that, since the future of
this charming girl is bound up with your own, you can no longer afford
to indulge in caprices."

"I do not think that I have ever indulged in caprices," replied Earle.
"In settling my plan of life, I have followed what I believe to be
right, as well as what I believed to be best. And I have no intention
of changing it now. Marion understands that in accepting me, she also
accepts my life. I am sure of that."

"_I_ am by no means sure of it," thought Mr. Singleton; but he was wise
enough to say no more, and bide his time to speak to Marion.

"My dear," he said to her, as soon as they were alone together, "you
know that the arrangement between Brian and yourself meets with my
warmest approval. But it will be of very little good to me personally,
unless you mean to use your influence--for you can no longer say that
you possess none--to induce him to yield to my wishes. Unless he does
so, he can expect nothing from me in the future. And that I should
regret for your sake now as well as his."

"You are very kind," said Marion, who understood all that was implied
in this. "Be certain that if he does not yield to your wishes, it will
not be my fault. I shall use all the influence I possess to induce him
to do so."

"In that case I have no fear," said the old man, gallantly. "Who could
resist you?"

A little while before Marion would have echoed this with a profound
conviction of her own irresistible power; but now, though she did not
dissent from it, she had a lurking fear that Brian Earle might not
prove so elastic in her hands as his uncle hoped. As yet, by tacit
consent, the subject of their future life had been avoided; but she
knew that the time would come when it must be discussed, and she said
to herself with passionate resolution that he should not throw away the
fortune which was offered him, if it were in her power to prevent it.

Had this resolution needed a spur, Mrs. Singleton's congratulations
would have given it. "I hope that you will be very happy," she said;
"and I think it is very good for me to hope it, for you step into my
place. Brian will not go abroad _now_."

"We have not settled that as yet," replied Marion, who detected a
questioning tone in the last assertion.

"I think that, in your place, I should settle it as soon as possible,"
said Mrs. Singleton. "It will be pleasanter for all parties. Although,
of course, Brian's decision is a foregone conclusion."

"You not only hope, you believe the contrary," thought Marion; "but I
will show you that you are mistaken."

Meanwhile Earle, unconscious of the struggle before him, was thinking
how much he had misjudged Marion in believing her so worldly, since,
knowing his definite decision with regard to his life, she was yet
willing to share that life. The declaration which he had made was
entirely unpremeditated; but, once made, he did not regret it. How
indeed was it possible to regret that which brought immediately so much
happiness to himself and to Marion? And it was too much to expect,
perhaps, that he should ask whether or not this happiness rested on a
very substantial basis--whether there were not elements in it certain
to produce discord as time went on. All that was hard, haughty and
worldly in Marion seemed, for the time being, to have disappeared.
Helen herself could hardly have seemed more gentle and tender to the
man she loved.

On the Sunday following their betrothal, he asked her if she would
go with him to church, and she readily assented. "I always liked
Catholicity," she said, as they took their way thither; "and I always
felt that if there was truth in any religion, it was in that. All the
others are but poor shams and imitations of it, and I have had an
instinctive scorn of them ever since I knew anything of the old faith.
I am glad, therefore, that you are a Catholic."

"Since I am not an Agnostic," he said, laughing. "You would have had a
higher opinion of my intellectual strength if I had avowed myself that,
you know."

She laughed too. "That was before I understood you," she said; "and
before I understood the grounds you had for your faith. But now I know
that you could be only what you are."

"And when," he asked, in a tone suddenly grown grave and earnest, "will
you also be that?"

"How can I tell?" she replied. "Should not faith be something more than
a mere matter of intellectual conviction?"

"Faith is a gift of God," he said. "If you are willing to receive it,
it will not be denied to you."

"I am willing now," she observed. "Always, heretofore, I have shrunk
from it. I have felt the fascination of Catholicity, but I have dreaded
what it would demand from me. But now I dread no longer. I am willing
to be what you are."

He smiled slightly, and, as they had reached the church by this time,
extended his hand to lead her over the threshold. Then withdrawing it,
"There!" he said; "I have done my part--I have brought you within the
door. God must do the rest."

It seemed to Marion, as she knelt by him during Mass, as if God were
doing this. Her heart opened to the influences around her as it had
never opened before. The Holy Sacrifice had a meaning for her which it
had never, up to this time, possessed; she forgot the plainness and
bareness of the chapel, the unfashionable appearance of the people, in
her consciousness of the Divine Reality before her on the altar. And
when the priest, addressing the people at the end of Mass, spoke in
plain and forcible language of the truths of faith, her mind replied by
an assenting _Credo_.

But as he turned to preach, Father Byrne received a shock of unpleasant
surprise in perceiving Marion's face by Brian Earle's side. He had
not seen or heard of her since the occurrences which had ended
Helen's engagement. He had not been aware that she still remained in
Scarborough after her aunt's departure; but he had met Earle, and
liked the young man so much that this unexpected appearance beside him
of the girl who had destroyed her cousin's happiness, seemed to him
a conjunction that boded no good. The sight distracted him so much
that he hesitated over the opening words of his sermon. The hesitation
was only momentary: he took a firm grasp of his subject, and began;
but whenever his glance fell on those two faces in one of the front
pews, he said to himself, "Poor young man!" and asked himself if,
knowing what he did, he should offer a warning to the object of his
commiseration.

After Mass, giving the question some thought, he decided that if the
opportunity for it arose, he would speak to Earle on the subject; but
that he would take no steps to make an opportunity, since it might
have been an accidental association, meaning little or nothing. And so
the matter might have passed without result, had not Earle presented
himself that afternoon at the pastoral residence. He had two motives
for the visit--one was to see Father Byrne, with whom he had been most
pleasantly impressed; the other, to ask for some book of instruction
to put into Marion's hands. The good Father was a little disturbed by
the appearance of his visitor: it seemed he was to be forced to deliver
his warning--for he had no intention of receding from his agreement
with his conscience. Therefore, after they had talked for some time on
various subjects, and a slight pause occurred, he was on the point of
beginning, when Earle anticipated him by speaking:--

"I must not weary you by a long visit, Father," he said, "knowing that
Sunday is a day which makes many demands upon you. I have come not only
for the pleasure of seeing you this afternoon, but to ask your advice
on a matter of importance. I want a book which sets forth Catholic
doctrine in a clear and attractive manner, for one disposed toward the
Church. What work will best answer my purpose?"

Father Byrne named a work familiar to most Catholics, and of wide
circulation; but Earle shook his head. "That will not do at all. I
want something of an intellectual character, and with the charm of
literary excellence. Else it would have no effect on the person for
whom I intend it."

"Perhaps if you told me something about the person," suggested the
priest, "I could judge better what would be suitable."

"I want the book," Earle answered, "for a young lady of much more than
ordinary intelligence, who has no Protestant prejudices to overcome,
and who, I think, only needs to be instructed to induce her to embrace
the Catholic faith."

Father Byrne's face changed at the words "a young lady." "Surely," he
said, after an instant's hesitation, "you do not mean the young lady
who was with you in church this morning?"

"Yes," replied Earle, surprised by the tone even more than by the
question. "I mean Miss Lynde. Do you know her?"

"I know her slightly, but I know _of_ her very well," answered the
priest, gravely. "And I regret to say that I cannot imagine a more
unpromising subject for conversion. My dear Mr. Earle, I think that
you will waste your efforts in that direction. I hope I am not
uncharitable, but I have little confidence in the sincerity of Miss
Lynde's desire to know the truth."

"Why have you no confidence?" asked Earle, shortly, almost sternly.

The other looked distressed. It was a more unpleasant task than he had
anticipated which he had set himself, but he felt bound in conscience
to go through with it.

"Because," he replied, "I know that the young lady has had ample
opportunity to learn all about the Faith if she had desired to do so.
She had been at school in a convent for some time, and she came here
with her cousin, Miss Morley, who is a devoted Catholic." He paused a
moment, then with an effort went on: "But it is not for this reason
alone that I distrust her sincerity. I chance to know that she acted
badly toward her cousin, that she was the cause of her engagement being
broken, and she behaved with great duplicity in the whole matter."

"This is a very serious charge," said Earle. He held himself well under
control, but the priest perceived that he was much moved. "Do you speak
with positive knowledge of what you assert?"

"As positive as possible, with regard to the facts," Father Byrne
answered. "Miss Morley broke her engagement because she heard the man
to whom she was engaged making love to her cousin. She generously
refrained from blaming the latter, but Mrs. Morley told me that Miss
Lynde had undoubtedly made deliberate efforts to attract her daughter's
lover. You will understand that I tell you this in confidence, and
nothing but my sincere interest in you would induce me to tell it at
all. You might readily hear it from others, however. It is, I believe,
a notorious fact in Scarborough."

Earle was silent for a minute, looking down as if in thought, with his
dark brows knitted, and his pleasant countenance overcast. The last
words made him recall various hints and allusions of Mrs. Singleton's.
They had produced little impression upon him at the time--not enough
to cause him to inquire what they meant,--but now they came back with
a force derived from what he had just heard. With sudden clearness he
recalled that Marion seemed to shrink from any mention of her cousin,
and that he had seen her change color once or twice when some man was
alluded to by Mrs. Singleton in very significant tones. Even if it
had been possible to doubt the priest, who spoke with such evident
reluctance, these things recalled by memory gave added weight to all
that he said. Presently the young man looked up, and spoke with an
effort:--

"I have no doubt you have meant kindly, Father, in speaking of this
matter; but, if you please, we will not discuss it further. To return
to the book--I see that I had better decide for myself what will be
suitable. Something of Newman's might answer, only he deals chiefly
with Anglican difficulties; or perhaps Lacordaire's great Conferences
on the Church might be best."

"That is rather a--formidable work," said the Father, hesitatingly.

"Yes," answered Earle; "but so splendid in its logic, so luminous in
its style, that whoever reads it understandingly will need no other.
But I must not detain you longer."

He rose as he spoke, shook hands with the priest--who was uncertain
whether or not to regret what he had done,--and took his departure.

Once outside he said to himself that the thing to do now was to go
directly to Marion, and learn from her the true meaning of the story
which had so deeply disturbed him. He felt loyally certain that, as he
heard it, it could not be true,--that she could never willfully have
drawn her cousin's lover from his allegiance. At least he repeated
this to himself more than once. But in his heart was a lurking doubt
which he would not acknowledge,--a lurking recollection of the distrust
he had felt toward her at first, and which lately had faded from his
mind. Well, it would depend upon what she told him now whether this
distrust were to be revived or finally banished.

It was late in the afternoon when he entered the grounds of the house
in which Mr. Singleton dwelt; and the long, golden sunshine streamed so
invitingly across emerald turf and bright flower-beds toward the green
depths of shrubbery in the old garden, that he turned his steps in that
direction, thinking it barely possible he might find Marion there,
since she was partial to a seat under an arbor covered with climbing
roses.

Some instinct must have guided his steps; for Marion _was_ there,
seated in the green shade, and so absorbed in reading that she did not
perceive his approach. He paused for a minute to admire the beautiful
picture which she made--a picture to delight an artist's eye,--asking
himself the while if what looked so fair could possibly be capable
of deceiving. It was a question that must be answered in one way or
another, and, tightening his lips a little, he came forward.

She looked up with a slight start as he drew near, and the light of
pleasure that came into her eyes was very eloquent. "So you have found
me!" she said. "I thought that you might. I looked for you when I came
out, but did not see you anywhere."

"I had gone into Scarborough," he answered. "I went to see"--he stopped
before saying "Father Byrne," with a sudden thought that it might not
be well for her to connect the priest with the information of which he
must presently speak--"to see a friend," he continued. "I wanted to
borrow a book. What have you there?"

She held it out, smiling. "Helen gave it to me long ago," she said,
"but I never looked at it until to-day."

Earle found that it was a translation of the admirable French
"Catechism of Perseverance," which is one of the best compendiums of
Catholic doctrine. "After all," he said, "I do not know that I can do
better than this, although I was thinking of a book of another kind for
you,--a book that would rouse your interest as well as instruct you."

"I think I should prefer your choice," she said. "Helen had the best
intentions, but she forgot that what suited her would not be likely to
suit me."

This repetition of Helen's name brought his attention back from the
book to the subject it had replaced in his mind. "Helen!" he repeated.
"You mean your cousin, Miss Morley?"

"Yes. You have heard me speak of her. She is a Catholic. It was with
her that I came to Scarborough."

"And why has she gone away and left you?"

Something in the tone rather than in the words caused Marion to color
with a quick sense of apprehension. "My aunt took her away for change
of air and scene. They are wealthy, and can go where they like. I could
not go with them, and so Mrs. Singleton kindly asked me to stay with
her. That is very simple, is it not?"

"Very," he answered. He looked down, and turned absently the leaves of
the Catechism. "But, since you were your cousin's guest, it seems to me
it would have been simpler if she had asked you to go with her."

"There were reasons why she did not," said Marion. She hesitated a
moment, and then an impulse of candor came to her,--a quick instinct
that Earle must hear from herself the story which he had perhaps
already heard from others. "I will tell you what they were," she
continued. "It is a matter which it is disagreeable to me to recall,
but I should like to tell you about it."

Then she told him. There is everything, as we know, in the point
of view from which a picture is regarded, or a story is told; so
it was not surprising that, as he listened, Earle felt a sense of
infinite relief. If this were all, she was not indeed altogether
free from blame--for she acknowledged that she had taken pleasure in
the perception of Rathborne's admiration,--but certainly she did not
deserve that charge of duplicity which the priest had made. It was an
unfortunate affair; but, feeling the power which she exercised over
himself, how could he wonder that another man had felt and yielded to
it?

So, for the time at least, all his doubt was dissipated, and Marion,
satisfied with this result, deferred the decisive struggle yet to come.



CHAPTER XIX.


But it was not to be long deferred--that decisive struggle which
Marion clearly foresaw, and from which she shrank, notwithstanding Mr.
Singleton's confident assurance of her victory. It was a day or two
later that Earle said to her:--

"Since I am going away soon, Marion, it will be well that we shall
settle all details of our future. Can you not make an effort and go
with me? What need is there, in our case, for long waiting, or for
submitting to a separation which would be very painful?"

The confident assurance of his tone--as if dealing with a point settled
beyond all need of argument--made Marion's heart sink a little, but she
nerved herself to the necessary degree of resolution, and answered,
quietly:--

"There will be no need for long waiting or for separation either, if
you will only consent to do what your uncle asks--to remain with him,
and fulfil the duty which most plainly lies before you." She paused a
moment, then added, in a softer tone, "You have refused to yield to his
request, will you not yield to _mine_?"

Earle looked at her with eyes full of pained surprise. "_Et tu Brute!_"
he said, with a faint smile. "I thought you, at least, understood how
firmly my mind is made up on that subject--how impossible it is for me
to resign all my cherished plans of life for the sake of inheriting my
uncle's fortune."

"But what is to prevent your painting as many pictures as you like and
still gratifying him?" she asked.

"Because no man can serve two masters, in temporal any more than in
spiritual things. If I am to serve Art, I must do so with all my
strength, not in a half-hearted _dilettante_ manner--but I am weary
of saying these things. I hoped that by this time everyone understood
them."

"I understand them perfectly," replied Marion; "but I do not think you
are right. I think that, because you have never known the need or want
of money, you are throwing away a fortune for a mere caprice, and you
are condemning others as well as yourself to lifelong poverty."

"Not to poverty," he observed; "though certainly to narrower means than
those my uncle possesses. It is for you to say whether or not you care
to accept the life which I offer. I can not change it--I do not believe
that even for you it would be best that I should."

"You are very kind to settle what would be best for me so entirely in
accordance with your own tastes and will," she said, with her old tone
of mockery. "May I ask why you are led to such a belief?"

"It is easily told," he answered, "and I will be perfectly frank in
the telling. We all have some one point where temptation assails us
with more force than at any other. With you, Marion, that point is an
undue value of wealth and of all the things of the world that wealth
commands,--things, for the most part, of great danger to one who
does value them unduly. The possession of wealth, therefore, would be
dangerous to you--more dangerous from the very strength of the passion
with which you desire it. Forgive me if this sounds odiously like
preaching, but it is true. I can not, then, change the whole intention
and meaning of my life--give up my study of art and sink into a mere
idle amateur--when by so doing I should gain nothing of value to
myself, while working harm rather than good to you. Tell me that you
believe I follow my conscience in this, and that you will be content
with what I offer you?"

He held out his hand with a pleading gesture, but Marion would not
see it. What he had said angered her more deeply than if he had let
his refusal remain based solely on his own wishes. That he should
recognize _hers_, yet coolly put them aside, reading her the while a
moral lecture on their dangerous nature, filled her with a sense of
passionate resentment.

"I might be content with what you offer," she said, "if it were not
that you could so easily offer more--you could so easily gratify me,
whom you profess to love, as well as the old man who loves you so well.
But you will not yield in the least degree to either of us. You follow
your own wishes, and declare mine to be mercenary and dangerous. The
difference between us is that I have known something of the poverty
you regard so lightly; and, while I might risk enduring it with a man
who had no alternative of escape from it, I do not think my prospect
of happiness would be great with a man who condemned me to it for the
gratification of his own selfishness."

"Is that how the matter appears to you?" asked Earle. He paused for a
minute and seemed to consider. "You may be right," he said, presently;
"I may be acting selfishly--what man can be absolutely certain of
his own motives?--but, to the best of my judgment, I am doing what I
believe to be right. I can not yield to my uncle in this matter--not
even though he has secured you as his advocate. I am sure that if I
did yield, it would be worse for all of us. No, Marion; forgive me if
I seem hard, but you must take me as I am, or not at all. You must
consent to share my life as I have ordered it, or it is best that you
should not share it at all."

She bent her head with the air of one who accepts a final decision. "It
is very good of you to put it so plainly," she said. "Your candor makes
my decision very easy. The matter to me stands simply thus: you decline
absolutely to make the least concession to my wishes, you sacrifice
my happiness relentlessly to your own caprice, and yet you expect me
to believe in the sincerity of your regard. I do not believe in it. I
believe, indeed, that you have some kind of a fancy for me; but you
think that, because I bring you nothing beside myself, you can make
your own terms and order my life as it pleases you--"

"Marion!" cried Earle, shocked and startled. But she went steadily on:--

"That, however, is a mistake. If I bring nothing, I have in myself
the power to win all things. I might give up all things for a man who
truly loved me, and who was poor by no fault of his own. But for a man
who loves me so little that he would condemn me uselessly to a sordid,
narrow life--for that man I have only one word: go!"

She rose with a gesture, as if putting him from her; but Earle caught
her extended hand.

"Marion!" he said, earnestly, "stop and think! You accuse me of
selfishness, but is there no selfishness in your own conduct? In asking
you to share my life as it is settled, I do not ask you to share
poverty: I only do not promise you wealth. Do you care nothing for me
without that wealth? Consider that I can only think you weigh me in the
scale with my uncle's fortune and without that fortune hold me of no
account."

"You must think what you please," returned Marion. "I have told you
how the matter appears to me. If you care for me, you will accept your
uncle's generous offer. That is my last word."

"Then we can only part," said Earle, dropping her hand. "It is evident
that the love of money is more deeply rooted in you than love of
me. God forgive you, Marion, and God bring you to some sense of the
relative value of things! I have the presumption to think that what
I give you is worth a little more than the fortune which you rate so
highly. Some day you may learn how little money can really buy of what
is best worth having in human life. In that day you may remember this
choice."

"I shall never regret it," she answered, proudly.

"I hope from my heart that you may not, but _I_ shall long regret it.
For I believe that you have a noble nature, to which you are doing
violence. And I hoped that in the life to which I would have taken you,
that nobler nature would have conquered the one which finds so much
attraction in mercenary things."

The nobler nature of which he spoke struggled a little to assert
itself, but was overborne by the lower and stronger nature--by anger,
disappointment, and wounded pride. What! she, who had expected to
sway and dominate all with whom she came in contact, to yield to
this man--to give up the strongest wish, the most earnest resolve of
her life? From her early youth embittered by adversity and galled by
poverty, she had said to herself, "Some day I will be rich!" And now
the opportunity to possess riches, and with riches the power for which
she longed, was placed within her reach, and yet was held back by the
selfish obstinacy of a man, who made his refusal worse by condemning
her wishes. At this moment she felt that anything was more possible
than to yield to him.

"You are wasting words," she observed, coldly. "My attraction for
mercenary things concerns you no longer. Our folly is at an end. It
_was_ folly I see, for you have no trust in me, nor any inclination to
please me; and where these things do not exist, love does not exist
either."

She gave him no opportunity to reply had he intended to do so, for she
left the room abruptly with the last words.

And there was no deliberation about her next step. She went at once
to Mr. Singleton. "I have come to tell you that your confidence in my
power over your nephew is misplaced," she said. "I have failed entirely
to influence him. He is going away."

The old man, who was leaning back in his deep velvet chair, his
face against its soft richness, looking more than ever like a piece
of fine ivory carving, did not appear very much surprised by this
intelligence. He remained for a minute without speaking, regarding
intently the girl before him. Her beauty was truly imperial; for
excitement gave it a brilliance--a light to her eyes, a color to her
cheeks--which was almost dazzling.

"What a splendid creature!" he said to himself; then he remarked aloud,
very quietly:--

"And you are going with him?"

"No," she answered. "Since he has no regard for my wishes in a matter
so important to me as well as to himself, I have declined to have
anything further to do with him."

"Good!" said Mr. Singleton. His tone expressed not only approval, but
intense satisfaction. "I am glad that some way to punish him has been
found. But what is he made of that he can look at you and refuse to do
what you ask! Has he gone mad with obstinacy, or is he a man of ice?"

"I do not know," she replied. "He cares only for himself and the
gratification of his own whims, I suppose. He does not deserve that
either you or I should think of him any more. And I," she added, more
sternly, "am determined that I will _not_ think of him again. He has
gone out of my life forever. There only remains for me now to go out of
this house, with the most grateful memory, dear Mr. Singleton, of your
kindness."

"No," said Mr. Singleton. He extended his hand and laid it on her arm,
as if he would detain her by force. "It is not for you to go, but for
him. And he shall go at once."

"Not on my account." she said, haughtily. "_He_ has a right here, I
have none."

"You have the right that I ask you to stay," observed Mr. Singleton.
"He has no other than my invitation, and that will be withdrawn as
soon as I see him. Like yourself, I am done with him now forever. I
have borne much from him and hoped much from him; but I see that the
first was useless, and the last without any rational ground. This
offense--his conduct to you--I will never forgive. But I hope, my dear,
that you will suffer me to make what atonement for it I can. I consider
you as much my adopted daughter as if this marriage on which I set my
heart had taken place."

"You are very good," replied Marion. A vision passed before her as she
spoke of all that this might mean; but she felt strangely dead toward
it, as if already the fortune she coveted had been robbed of half its
lustre.

"Stay with me, then," said Mr. Singleton. "I can not part with you, if
Brian can. I want your society while I live, and I will provide for you
liberally when I die. Will you stay?--is that agreed upon?"

"Yes," she answered. "If you care for me I will stay. Nobody else does
care."

Then suddenly her proud composure gave way. She burst into tears, and
made her escape from the room.

Perhaps those tears hardened Mr. Singleton's resolve, or perhaps it
needed no hardening. After a few minutes he rang his bell, and sent the
servant who answered it to summon Brian Earle to him.

The latter was on the point of leaving the house when he received the
message, but he immediately obeyed it, saying to himself as he laid
down his hat, "As well now as later." For he knew perfectly what was
before him; and Mr. Singleton's icy manner was no surprise to him when
he entered the room where Marion had brought her story so short a time
before.

"I am informed by Miss Lynde," said Mr. Singleton, severely, "that your
engagement to her is at an end, for the reason that you refuse to yield
your wishes to hers as well as to mine, and she very wisely declines to
countenance your folly and selfishness by sacrificing her life to it.
Is this true?"

"Perfectly true," replied the young man, calmly. "Miss Lynde thinks me
not worth accepting without your fortune. I regret to say that this, to
my mind, betrays a nature so mercenary that I am not sorry a conclusive
test should have arisen, and ended an arrangement which certainly would
not be for the happiness of either of us."

"That is how it appears to you, is it?" said Mr. Singleton. "Well, let
me tell you that, to me, your conduct is so utterly without reason or
excuse, so shameful in its selfish disregard of everyone's wishes but
your own, that I finally cast off all regard for you. Go your way,
study the art to which you have sacrificed not only me but the woman to
whom you pledged your faith; but remember that you have lost your last
chance with me. Not a sixpence of my money will ever go to you."

"I have never wanted it," said Brian, proudly.

"No," answered his uncle. "But in the days to come, when your need for
money increases, and you find that fame and fortune are not so easily
won as you imagine now, you _will_ want it; you will curse your folly
then when it is too late; and you will think, perhaps, of the old man
who offered you so much for so little, and to whom you refused that
little."

Angry as the speaker was, something in the tone of his last words
almost shook Brian's resolution. For a moment he asked himself if,
after all, he might not be the victim of a self-willed delusion; if his
uncle might not be right, and if it might not be his duty to yield. But
this was only for a moment. He had the faculty of seeing clearly and
deciding firmly once for all. He had long before this weighed every
aspect of a question which so importantly concerned his life, and his
final decision was based on many strong grounds. Those grounds he saw
no reason to reconsider now.

"I am very sorry," he said, gravely, "for all that has happened,--most
sorry for any disappointment or pain I have caused you or another.
But there are many reasons why I cannot comply with your wishes; and,
since further discussion of the subject is useless, I will beg your
permission to leave you."

"Leave me and leave my house!" said Mr. Singleton, emphatically. "It is
my duty to guard Miss Lynde from any possible annoyance, and to meet
you could only be an annoyance to her now. You will, therefore, be good
enough to go at once."

"I will do so," replied Brian, rising. "God bless you, sir, and believe
that I am very grateful for all your kindness to me. I wish that I
could have repaid you better."

Then, before his uncle could answer, he went away.



CHAPTER XX.


Brian Earle had not been gone more than two or three weeks when the
report suddenly spread through Scarborough that Mr. Singleton was very
ill. And for once report was true. One among the many chronic maladies
from which he suffered took a turn for the worse, and the doctors shook
their heads, saying the case was very critical.

Indeed it was more than critical. Those about the sick man knew that
his recovery--even his partial recovery--was impossible. Close to him
now was the dread Presence which care and skill had kept at bay so
long, and no one was more thoroughly aware of the fact than himself. He
met it with a grim philosophy, which is the only possible substitute
for Christian resignation. Of religious belief he had very little,
never having troubled himself to formulate the vague ideas which he had
received from a much attenuated Protestantism. But, such as they were,
they did not inspire him with terror. God would, no doubt, be merciful
to a man who was conscious of never having done anything dishonorable
in his life. This consciousness helped to support his philosophy, but
it is not likely that he gave it much thought. A subject which has not
occupied a place of importance in a man's consideration during life
will hardly do so even in the face of death.

Mr. Singleton was more interested in arranging his worldly affairs than
in preparing for the great change from time to eternity. His lawyer
was summoned, and a final and complete revision made of the important
document which would fulfill or blast the hopes of many people.
Concerning this document Mrs. Singleton was wild with curiosity; but
she could learn nothing, and her husband declined even to speculate
concerning their chances. "We shall know soon enough--perhaps too
soon," he said, with his usual philosophy, a little tinged by
despondency.

Another person who felt some curiosity, mingled with an indifference
which surprised herself, was Marion Lynde. Who would take in the will
that place which Brian Earle had forfeited? And what would the latter
think now of the fact that he had thrown away a fortune rather than
give a promise, the fulfillment of which, as it now chanced, would
never have been exacted? "He would have had the money and his freedom
besides," she thought. "Does he recognize his folly now? Will he
recognize it when he hears the news that soon must be told him?"

Of her own interest in this crisis, Marion did not take a great deal
of thought. She had no doubt that some legacy for herself would find a
place in Mr. Singleton's will, and no doubt also that in the time to
come she would be grateful for it. But she regarded the probability
just now with a dull indifference, which was the reaction from a
great disappointment. She had not only lost the only man who had ever
touched her heart, but also the fortune that might have been hers in
the entirety. And, after that great loss, could she rejoice over the
prospect of obtaining a small share of this fortune?

No: to rejoice was impossible; but she felt that whatever the old man's
generosity gave would be welcome, since it would mean emancipation from
absolute dependence on relations for whom she had no cordiality of
feeling. No doubt the time would come when she would be very glad of
this, but just now it was difficult--in fact, impossible--to be glad of
anything.

In this way the days, weighted with much pain for one and much
uncertainty of hope and fear for others, dragged their slow hours
away and the end came at last. Marion was still in the house--Mrs.
Singleton, who felt that her presence could no longer do any harm, had
begged her not to leave,--and she felt a thrill of awe and regret when
the words came from the sick chamber, "He is dying."

So the old man who had showed nothing but kindness to her was passing
away--and how? Without a single heart near him that throbbed with
affection, without a Sacrament or a word of prayer! Marion had
associated too much with Catholics not to feel the horror of this, but
she also knew too much of Protestants to expect anything different. Yet
she could not help saying to Mrs. Singleton, "Has no clergyman been
sent for?"

That lady looked surprised. "No," she answered. "Why should one be sent
for? No one would take the liberty of doing such a thing while Mr.
Singleton was conscious, and after unconsciousness had set in where
would be the good? Mr. Eustace would come and read prayers, no doubt,
if we asked him to do so; but what would be gained by it?"

"Nothing, I suppose," said Marion. She had heard those prayers--which
are all that Protestantism offers,--and shuddered at the recollection.
Yet for the dying man to go forth into eternity without a word of
appeal in his behalf, seemed to her so terrible that she stole away
to her own room, opened a prayer-book which had been given her at the
convent, and, kneeling down, said for the first time in her life the
prayers for the dying which she found therein.

And while she was saying them--those tender and infinitely touching
petitions, which call upon the Most High in solemn supplication for the
soul in its agony,--the soul for which she prayed passed away, and was
done with the things of earth forever.

A day or two followed, of that strange, hushed quietness, yet of much
coming and going,--of the sense of a suspension of ordinary life, which
prevails in a house where Death has for the time taken possession. The
living are generally impatient of this time, and shorten it as far as
possible, especially where no deep sense of real grief is felt. But
Mr. Singleton, in death as in life, was too important a person for
every due propriety not to be observed. There were arrangements to be
made, friends to be summoned, and details of funeral and burial to be
settled. These things required time; and when it was finally settled
that the funeral would take place in Scarborough, but the body would be
carried for burial to the home of the dead man, there was a sense of
relief in the minds of all concerned.

Marion accompanied Mrs. Singleton to the funeral in the Episcopal
church, which had so much pleased her taste on her first arrival
in Scarborough. It was as pretty as ever; but how little correct
architecture, stained glass or rich organ tones could give life to the
mockery of death which is called a burial-service, and which contains
no reference to the individual dead person whose body lies--one wonders
why--before a so-called "altar," where no sacrifice is offered, from
which no blessing is given! Even the glorious promises of St. Paul,
which the preacher reads with studied effect, fall upon the ear like
something infinitely distant; the heart instinctively longs for one
word of personal application, one cry for mercy and pardon on behalf of
the poor soul that, in mute helplessness, can no longer cry for itself.
But one listens in vain. There is not even an allusion to that soul.
The general hope of immortality--which can be applied in any way that
suits the listener--having been set forth, a hymn is sung, and, save
for a few formal prayers at the grave, all is over.

Perhaps it was because she had so little religious sentiment to supply
for herself what was lacking that, as Marion listened, she felt her
heart grow sick with pity and disgust. "What is the possible good of
this!" she exclaimed mentally, with indignation. "If no prayer is to
be said for the soul, no blessing given to the body, why is it brought
here? What meaning is there in such empty formalism? It is a mockery,
nothing less; and if one cannot have what the Catholics give, I, like
the materialists, who are the only logical Protestants, would have
nothing."

After the service, which impressed at least one observer in this
manner, the body was at once taken away. Mr. Singleton, of course,
accompanied it, but his wife remained behind; and it was understood
that immediately on his return the will would be read.

Eagerness on this score no doubt kept Mr. Singleton from the delay
with regard to his return in which he might else have indulged, being
a man who had a constitutional objection to haste. But for once he
accomplished a very quick journey. On the third day after the funeral
he returned, and the will was opened by the lawyer who had drawn it up
according to the dead man's last instructions.

There was a strain of intense curiosity and anxiety regarding this will
in the minds of all concerned. It was by this time generally known
that, toward the last, Brian Earle had fallen hopelessly out of his
uncle's favor; but no one felt able to conjecture with any certainty
who would take his place in the will, although every one cherished
a secret hope that it might be himself. There were several of these
would-be heirs--cousins more or less removed--of the dead man; but Tom
Singleton was, in the absence of Earle, the nearest relative, being
the son of a half-brother, while Earle was the son of Mr. Singleton's
only sister. The former, with all his easy-going quietness, felt that
it would be an outrage if he were not the heir; although, knowing his
uncle better than any one else, he knew also that he should not be
surprised by whatever grim caprice the will revealed.

And such a caprice it did reveal, to the amazement and rage of everyone
concerned. Mr. Singleton remembered with a legacy everyone whom it was
proper that he should remember--the largest of these legacies being
fifty thousand dollars to Tom Singleton,--and then he bequeathed the
remainder of his fortune to his "adopted daughter," Marion Lynde.

The disappointed heirs looked at one another with expressions that
baffle description. What! half a million to a girl who had no claim
upon it whatever, whose relationship to the old man was of the most
vague and distant description! They could hardly believe that he had
really been guilty of anything so infamous. They would have felt it
less an injury if he had endowed a college or a hospital.

But one reflection seemed to occur to all; for, after the expressive
pause which said more than any words, almost every voice spoke
simultaneously, "The will won't stand! His mind was weak when he made
it. It's evidently a case of undue influence."

The lawyer shook his head. "No, gentlemen," he said; "don't make a
mistake. This will can not be broken. My client took care of that, and
I took care also. As for his mind being weak, Mr. Singleton here knows
that up to the day of his death his mind was as clear and vigorous as
it ever had been."

Tom Singleton, thus directly appealed to, bent his head. He had not
been one of the speakers, and, but for the fact that he had grown very
pale, showed little sign of emotion.

"And, foreseeing of course that this disposition of his fortune would
cause disappointment," the lawyer went on, "Mr. Singleton was careful
to explain to me why he selected Miss Lynde for his heir. It seems that
she was for a time engaged to Mr. Brian Earle, whose name occupied in a
preceding will exactly the place which hers does here. The engagement
was broken in a manner which caused Mr. Singleton to blame his nephew
exceedingly, and the young lady not at all. So, as he told me, he
determined that she should lose nothing. The fortune which would have
been hers had she married Earle--should be hers in any event. This was
what he intended; and your disappointment, gentlemen, may be less if
you will remember that Mr. Brian Earle is the only person whom this
bequest to Miss Lynde deprives of anything."

But, naturally, this was not much comfort to the disappointed heirs.
Each one felt that _he_ should by right have taken Brian Earle's place,
and that a broken engagement hardly gave Marion Lynde a claim to the
fortune which had been bequeathed to her. There were many more angry
murmurs, and numerous threats of contesting the will; but the smile
with which the lawyer heard these was not very encouraging, nor yet his
calm assurance that they could find no better means of throwing away
the money which had been left to them.

Finally they all dispersed, and Tom Singleton slowly took his way to
the house, where his wife and the fortunate heiress were awaiting
him. Never had he been called upon before to perform a duty from
which he shrank so greatly. He dreaded the violence of his wife's
disappointment, and he felt a repugnance to the task of informing Miss
Lynde of her inheritance. The lawyer had asked him to do so, and as one
of the executors of the will he could not refuse; but it was a task
which did not please him. If this girl, this stranger, had not come
into their lives, would not he be in Earle's vacated place? He could
not but feel that it was most probable.

It would require a volume to do justice to the feelings which Mrs.
Singleton expressed when she heard the terrible news. She had not
only lost the fortune--_that_ might have been borne,--but it had
gone to Marion Lynde, the girl whom she had discovered and brought
to the notice of the infatuated old man who was dead! This was the
insupportable sting, and its effect was all that her husband had
feared. He had prepared himself for the storm, however; and he bore its
outburst with what philosophy he could until Mrs. Singleton declared
her intention of going to upbraid Marion with her great iniquity. Here
he firmly interposed.

"You will do nothing of the kind," he said. "Miss Lynde is not to blame
at all, and you will only make yourself ridiculous by charging her
with offenses of which she is not guilty. If she has schemed for this,
she concealed the scheming so successfully that it is too late now to
attempt to prove it. There is nothing to be done but to make the best
of a bad matter, and bear ourselves with dignity. I beg that you will
not see her until you feel able to do this. As for me, I must see her
at once."

And, in spite of his wife's protest, he did so. When a servant came
to Marion with the announcement that Mr. Singleton desired to see her
in the drawing-room, she went down without any thrill of excitement
whatever. It was as she had imagined, then: the old man had left her a
legacy. This was what she said to herself. And vaguely, half-formed in
her mind, were the words, "Perhaps ten thousand dollars." She had never
dreamed of more than this, and would not have thought of so much had
not Mr. Singleton been of a princely habit of giving.

Was it wonderful, then, that the shock of hearing what she had
inherited stunned her for a time? She could only gaze at the speaker
with eyes dilated by an amazement that proved her innocence of any
schemes for or expectations of this end. "Mr. Singleton," she gasped,
"it is impossible! There must be some great mistake."

Mr. Singleton faintly smiled. "There is no room for mistake, Miss
Lynde," he said. "My uncle has left his fortune to you."



CHAPTER XXI.


It was at first almost impossible for Marion to realize that the desire
of her life was gratified in a manner so strange and so unexpected.
She seemed to be existing in a dream, which would presently dissolve
away after the manner of all dreams, and leave her in her old state of
poverty and longing. That Brian Earle had lost his fortune, and that
the old man now dead had not cared sufficiently for any of his other
heirs to leave it to them,--that this fortune was hers--hers absolutely
and alone,--was something that struck her as too wonderful, and, in a
certain sense, too awful, to be true. There flashed across her mind a
recollection of "being crushed beneath the weight of a granted prayer."
Was she to be crushed beneath the weight of this prayer of hers so
singularly granted?

Certainly she felt herself in an isolation which was chilling to the
heart. The man she loved was gone--had parted from her in contempt;
and she felt sharply how much that contempt would be increased when he
heard that she possessed his inheritance. As for friends, where would
she turn to find them? For her uncle and his family she had never
cared; Helen was estranged--if not in heart, at least in fact; for
intercourse between them could not now be pleasant to either; and it
seemed a desecration of the name of friend to apply the term to Mrs.
Singleton. Yet it was to Mrs. Singleton, after all, that she had to
turn for social support and countenance at this crisis of her fortunes.
And it was the good sense and philosophy of Mr. Singleton which induced
his wife to see that she would gain nothing by following her declared
intention of having nothing more to do with the heiress.

"People will only think that you are disappointed and envious," he
said; "and since the world never, under any circumstances, turns its
back on a rising sun, you will merely put yourself in a foolish and
awkward position. The thing to do is, as I have said before, to make
the best of a bad matter. And for us it might be a great deal worse.
Of course we have missed the fortune, but I don't realty think we ever
had a chance of it; and we are not paupers, you know. Now, it will be
a graceful thing for you to take up this girl. She will appreciate it,
I think, and it will prevent any undesirable gossip about her or about
us."

"All that may be very true, Tom," Mrs. Singleton replied. "But I do not
see how I _can_ force myself to have anything more to do with her. I so
despise her duplicity!"

"Duplicity is a thing to be despised," observed Mr. Singleton, quietly;
"but I am not sure that Miss Lynde has been guilty of it. Let us give
her the benefit of a doubt. If, as you believe, she schemed for this
result, she most certainly did not expect it. I never saw any one show
greater surprise than she did when she heard the news."

"She is a consummate actress. She might have affected that."

"Not even the most consummate actress could have affected what she
exhibited. Her surprise amounted to incredulity. But, whether you
believe this or not, believe that it will be best for you not to throw
her off. There is nothing to be gained by that, and there may be a good
deal to lose."

This view of the matter, together with her husband's unusual
seriousness, impressed Mrs. Singleton so much that she finally
consented to form an alliance, for purposes of mutual convenience,
with Marion. The latter received her overtures with a certain sense
of gratitude. She knew that they were interested, but she also knew
that without Mrs. Singleton she would be placed in a very difficult
position--would, in fact, appear in the eyes of the world as an
adventuress who had secured a fortune at the expense of the rightful
heirs. The countenance of those heirs was, therefore, very essential to
her.

But this hollow compact for mutual convenience--how different was
it from associations in which affection or sympathy forms the tie!
Marion had fancied herself made in a mould strong enough to disregard
such feelings, but she now found her mistake. Her heart ached for the
affections she had lost--for Brian's strong love, and Helen's gentle
tenderness. She had sacrificed both, and by sacrificing them won the
fortune for which she had longed; but already she began to realize that
she had lost in the exchange more than she had gained. Already the
shining gold which had dazzled her was transforming itself into the dry
and withered leaves of the fairy legend.

Her plans were formed to leave Scarborough. The associations of the
place were hateful to her, and it was decided that she should go with
Mrs. Singleton to the home of the latter, and then form arrangements
for her mode of life. But, since she was still a minor, these
plans were subjected to her uncle's modifications, and his consent
was necessary for them. This caused a delay which detained her in
Scarborough for some time, and brought to her knowledge a fact which
was destined to influence her future.

This was the fact that Rathborne in his threat of enmity had uttered
no idle words. A few days after the contents of the will had become
known, while public interest respecting it was at its height, he met
Tom Singleton and said a few significant words:--

"So Miss Lynde has won the fortune from you all! That is rather hard,
isn't it?"

Mr. Singleton shrugged his shoulders. "Everyone knew that my uncle was
a man of caprices. His will was certain to be a surprise, in one way or
another; and for myself, I have no right to complain. He remembered me
handsomely."

"And is there no intention of contesting the will on the part of the
heirs?"

"I hardly think so. Brian Earle and myself are the people most nearly
concerned, and we do not think of it."

"You are sure about Earle?"

"Perfectly sure," said Mr. Singleton. "Why should a man go into a
lawsuit to gain what he might have had for a word?"

"There might be several reasons," returned Rathborne. "I can imagine
one of great strength. But if you do not think of contesting the will,
another heir may come forward to do it."

"No other heir would have a chance. If the will were set aside, Earle
and myself would inherit."

"Not if the man's son should chance to be living."

Singleton opened his eyes. "But the son is dead," he replied.

"Is he?" said Rathborne, dryly. "Who knows it?--who can prove it? But,
of course, I spoke only of a probability."

He moved away then, while his companion looked after him with rather a
blank and puzzled expression. "Now, what on earth can be known about
it?" he thought. "And what does he mean? Of course there never has been
any proof of George's death, that I know of; and if he _should_ be
living--Miss Lynde might look out for storms then. But nothing could
be more improbable. My uncle evidently did not think it a matter to be
even considered. _He_ must have had some certainty about it."

Nevertheless, he mentioned to his wife what Rathborne had said, and
she with malicious intent repeated it to Marion. "It is the first
suggestion that has been made about George," she observed. "But if he
should chance to be living, I am afraid you would lose everything."

"How could that be," said the young girl, "when he is not mentioned in
the will?"

"Because, of course, he would contest it on the ground that his father
believed him dead when he made it, and also that a man has no right to
disinherit his son in favor of a stranger. I hope it may never come to
such a contest, for many disagreeable things would be said about you."

"It would certainly never come to it, as far as I am concerned,"
replied Marion, haughtily. "For if Mr. George Singleton appeared, I
should yield his inheritance to him without any contest at all."

"Would you indeed?" asked Mrs. Singleton. She looked at her for a
moment with her head on one side, as if contemplating the possibility
of what it might mean for herself. "I don't think there is the least
danger that he will appear," she said presently; "and I had really
rather you had it than he. I always detested George."

"Thanks for the implied compliment," said Marion, smiling faintly.

She said no more on the subject, but, naturally enough, she thought
much. It was a new and startling suggestion, and seemed to derive added
force from the fact that Rathborne had made it. For she had never lost
the sense of his hostile influence--of the realization that she had
made an enemy of one who had the strength as well as the will to be
dangerous. And now she felt sure that if George Singleton were on the
earth this man would find him. "That is what he intends to do," she
said to herself; "and this is his way of letting me know it--of making
me understand that I hold my fortune on an uncertain tenure. Well, let
him do his worst. If I lose the fortune, nothing will be left me at
all; and that, no doubt, is what I deserve."

This was a new conclusion for Marion, and showed how far she had
already traveled on the road of self-knowledge. Even now she began to
ask herself what there was which the money she had so eagerly desired
could purchase for her of enduring interest? Now that everything
was within her reach, she felt that she hardly cared to stretch out
her hands to grasp any object of which she had dreamed. Admiration,
pleasure, power,--all seemed to her like the toys which a sick child
regards with eyes of indifference. Was it the weakening of her heart or
the rousing of her soul which made them seem of so small account? She
did not ask herself; she only felt that Brian Earle's influence had for
a time lifted her into a region where she had breathed a higher air,
and gained a knowledge of ideals which made her own now seem false,
petty and unsatisfying.

Would these ideals have attracted Marion had they been presented by
another person? That is difficult to say. Her nature had in it much
essential nobleness--Earle had been right in thinking it more warped
than really wrong,--and it might have responded in some degree to any
influence of the kind. But surely it is not without grave reason that
we are bidden to keep the heart with all diligence, since "out of it
are the issues of life." It had been necessary that Marion's heart
should be roused out of its cold indifference to all affection, before
she could grasp the meaning of the higher things of life--those things
which have their root and their end in eternity.

It was one evening about this time that she chanced to be driving
late through the streets of Scarborough, and saw the Catholic church
open and several persons entering. A sudden impulse made her bid the
coachman stop. She was alone, having just left Mrs. Singleton at the
house of a friend; and she felt that before leaving Scarborough
finally--as it was her intention to do in a few days--she would like
to enter once more the sanctuary where she had felt herself drawn very
near to God. Since then the world had rushed in and overwhelmed her,
and she had no longer any intention of embracing the true faith. But
an attraction which could not be resisted drew her just now within the
threshold of the door to which Earle had last led her.

She descended from her carriage, to the astonishment of a few loiterers
around the church gate, and in the rich twilight walked up the path
which led to the door. Music came from within, and as she pushed it
open a vision of celestial yet familiar brightness burst on her. The
altar was a mass of lights and flowers, and in the midst rose the
ostensorium on its golden throne. The priest, with his attendants,
knelt motionless before it, while from the organ-loft came the strains
of the "_O Salutaris Hostia_." Marion had been at the convent too long
not to know all that it meant. She knelt at once, as a Catholic might
have done; and indeed in her mind at that moment there was no sense of
doubt. From the uplifted Presence on the altar faith seemed suddenly
infused into her soul. Not only did all thought of questioning leave
her, but all memory of ever having questioned. She knelt like a child,
simply, humbly, involuntarily; and, with the same confidence as those
around her, breathed a petition for the things of which she had begun
to feel herself in need--for light on a path which was by no means
clear, and for some better guide than her own erring will.

After Benediction she was one of the first to leave the church, with
a sense of peace which astonished her. "Why do I feel differently now
from what I did when I entered?" she said to herself as she drove
home in the soft dusk. "What power has touched me, and given me the
first repose of spirit that I have known in a long time? It is surely
strange, and impossible not to believe."

But there it ended. Not yet had come the time when she would feel the
necessity of taking some practical step toward making this all-powerful
help her own; not yet had the proud spirit bent itself to acknowledging
its own inability to order its life. The very reason which not long
before had drawn her toward the Church--the fact that Earle belonged
to it--now repelled as strongly as it had attracted. The hour had not
yet struck when such earthly considerations would fall away before the
urgent demand of the soul, the need of the weak and the human for the
strong and the eternal.

  "The cedars must fall round us ere we see the light behind;"

and not all of Marion's cedars had fallen yet.

The next day a surprise, which was yet not altogether a surprise,
awaited her. She was quietly sitting in the room which had been
Mr. Singleton's--that small, pretty apartment behind the large
drawing-room, which still seemed full of the suggestion of his
presence,--when she heard a visitor ushered into the adjoining room,
and a minute later a servant appeared bringing her a card. She took it
and read the name of Paul Rathborne.

It was a shock rather than an astonishment. She said to herself that
she had looked for this: she had known that he would come as the
bearer of ill news, if ill news were to be brought to her. For a moment
she remained silent looking at the bit of pasteboard which said so
much. Should she refuse to see him, should she deny him the pleasure
of triumphing over her, and force him to send through another channel
whatever news he brought? She was strongly tempted to this, but pride
in the first place--the pride of not wishing to let him imagine that
he had any power to move her--rejected the idea; and in the second
place she felt that she must know at once whatever he had to tell.
If she refused to see him, he would be capable of making her suffer
suspense for an indefinite length of time. Steadying her voice to quiet
indifference, therefore, she said to the servant: "Show Mr. Rathborne
in here."

A minute later the curtains between the two rooms were drawn back,
and Rathborne entered. She rose and bowed slightly, looking more
princess-like than ever in her beauty and stateliness, and in the midst
of the luxury which surrounded her. No detail of her appearance or
her manner was lost upon the man who had come with his heart full of
bitterness toward her. And if an additional touch to this bitterness
had been needed, her haughtiness, and her air of calmly possessing a
place where she belonged, would have given it. The recollection of some
words of his was fresh in the minds of both as they looked at each
other. "I promise you that in the hour when your schemes are nearest
success, you will find them defeated by me." These had been his last
words to her. Was he come now to tell her that they were fulfilled?
This was the thought in her mind, but there was no sign of it in her
manner or her glance. She stood, composedly waiting for him to explain
the object of his visit; and it was he who had to speak first.

"I have ventured to ask the honor of this interview, Miss Lynde," he
said--and, under its outward respect, she keenly felt the mockery of
his tone,--"in order to make a communication of importance to you. It
is true, I might have made it to your lawyer, but I thought it best
that I should be myself the bearer of such news to you."

"I fully appreciate your motives," she replied, in her clear,
flute-like tones. "Pray spare yourself and me any apologies, and let me
know what possible news of importance can have fallen to you to bring
me."

As she understood the underlying mockery in his voice, so he heard and
felt the scorn of hers. Her clear, brilliant glance said to him: "I
know that you have come here because you hope to humble me, but I shall
only show you how despicable I consider you." It stung him as she had
always had the faculty of stinging him, and roused his determination to
make his tidings as bitter to her as possible.

"The news which I bring you," he said, "is most important to your
interest, since it is the intelligence that I am directed to bring suit
at once to set aside Mr. Singleton's will made in your favor, in order
that the estate may devolve to the natural heir."

"Indeed!" she said, quietly, with admirable self-control. "And may I
beg to know who is the natural heir who proposes to enter into this
contest?"

"An heir against whose claim you will find it impossible to fight,"
he answered, with a ring of triumph in his voice;--"one who has been
supposed to be dead, but who has been roused, by the news that his
inheritance has been alienated from him, to prove that he is living. In
other words, my client is Mr. Singleton's only son, George Singleton."



CHAPTER XXII.


It does not always follow that a thing is not a shock because one has
in a manner expected it. Marion suffered a severe shock when she found
her worst anticipations realized; for, although she had in a degree
anticipated it, knowing that Rathborne was not likely to have spoken
without some ground when he alluded to such a possibility, there had
still been the contrary assurance that Mr. Singleton had evidently
believed in his son's death, since there was not even an allusion to
him in the will. The intelligence just conveyed was, therefore, a
hard blow mercilessly struck; but she preserved her self-possession,
notwithstanding, in a remarkable manner.

"This is a very extraordinary piece of news," she said. "I have been
under the impression that Mr. George Singleton was dead."

Rathborne smiled. "Most people have been under that impression,
especially those who had very good reason for desiring that it should
be so," he answered. "But, so far from being dead, he has been living
in South America, and prospering fairly."

"Living in South America, and yet he has already heard of his father's
death and the disposition of his father's property!--how has that
happened?"

Despite himself, Paul Rathborne colored slightly, but his glance
met hers fully as he answered, "It has not happened by chance. Some
time ago a friend of mine who had been in South America mentioned
meeting a man there who, from his description, I felt sure must be Mr.
Singleton's missing son. The matter was then no interest or concern
of mine; for it was to be supposed that the father and son knew their
own affairs best. So I paid no attention to it. But a short time ago
it began to occur to me that it was rather hard that, while the son
was still living, strangers should be fighting for his inheritance.
Therefore I wrote to my friend (who had returned to South America) to
let Singleton know the state of affairs here. The latter immediately
wrote to me, saying that he would return to his father as soon as
possible, and meanwhile asking me to inform Mr. Singleton of his (the
son's) existence and well-being. This letter reached me just at the
time of Mr. Singleton's death. I immediately communicated this fact to
Mr. George Singleton, as also the facts with regard to the estate; and
I have just heard from him, authorizing me to contest the will at once."

There was a brief pause, during which Marion asked herself what was her
best course of action; and out of the confusion into which her mind was
thrown, she could grasp only one clear idea--that she must be careful
how she committed herself to this man, who had come with the desire to
injure and triumph over her. Consequently, when she spoke it was to
say, quite calmly:--

"I think that you have made a mistake in coming to me with this story
instead of going to my lawyer. I understand very well _why_ you have
come; but now that you have accomplished the end you had in view, I beg
to refer you to him. For, of course, in a matter so important as this I
shall not think of acting without advice."

"I am acquainted with your prudence," he said, with the mockery of his
tone somewhat more pronounced; "and am not, therefore, surprised to
find you so cautious. But I think it only right to warn you that your
caution will avail very little. No will which ignores a son in favor of
an absolute stranger can possibly stand."

"That is a point which I do not care to discuss with you," she replied.
"But you will allow me to inquire if Mr. Singleton is in this country
or on his way here?"

"Not yet. He will come if it is necessary; but I am at present
authorized to act for him."

"You seem to have inspired him with a remarkable degree of confidence,
considering that you are an entire stranger to him."

It was merely a chance shot, but something in the expression of
Rathborne's face gave her an idea like a flash of lightning.

"It is to be supposed," she went on before he could speak, "that you
are convinced of the identity of this stranger with Mr. Singleton's
son?"

"Do you imagine that if I were not--"

"I imagine nothing," she interposed; "and as a lawyer you can not need
a reminder from me that it will be necessary for this person whom you
represent, fully to prove his identity with the son whom Mr. Singleton
believed to be dead."

It was perfectly true, and Rathborne knew it; but he was none the less
astonished that she should have so clearly and immediately perceived it.

"I always knew that she was shrewd as the devil," he said to himself,
while he observed aloud:--

"Do not flatter yourself with any hope that it is an impostor who is
about to claim the fortune you have inherited. Nothing can be more
certain than that it is Mr. Singleton himself. To attempt to deny his
identity will only be to make yourself ridiculous, and to damage your
cause more than the plain facts have damaged it already. Your lawyer, I
am sure, will advise you better."

"Let me again refer you to that lawyer, if this is all you have to say
to me," she answered, rising from her seat.

He rose also; and as they stood for a moment face to face, it proved
impossible for him to restrain some words which rose to his lips,
brought there in double bitterness by the sight of her proud, calm
countenance.

"I shall go to your lawyer," he said, "and I shall not rest until my
client has all his rights--the rights of which he would not have heard
for many a day but for me. When he is in full possession of them, I
will ask you to be good enough to remember a pledge that I gave you
once, and which I shall then have fully redeemed. I always endeavor to
pay my debts; and, as you are well aware, I owe you a very heavy debt
at present. I hope to repay it very soon--with interest."

"I am well aware that you are a malicious and a dishonorable man," she
replied, calmly. "Because your treachery with regard to Helen recoiled
on yourself, you have determined to injure me. Do your worst. Nothing
that you could do would make you more despicable in my eyes than you
are at present. This is all that need be said between us. Will you go
now, or shall I be forced to leave you?"

"I shall go at once," he answered; "but you will permit me to offer you
a little parting advice. Enjoy as much as possible the fortune which
you hold now, for your possession of it will be very short."

With this last sting he went out from her presence; and she,
sinking into Mr. Singleton's deep chair, clasped her hands over her
painfully-beating heart, and looked with troubled eyes over the soft
landscape before her, of which she hardly perceived a feature.

And so she was, after all, to lose the fortune for which she had
sacrificed everything else! It had by no means brought her the
satisfaction or happiness she had imagined, but it was all that
remained to her--the one good which she still grasped out of the wreck
she had already made of her life, and her life's best hopes. To lose
it now, to sink back again into poverty and dependence after one brief
taste of power and independence, that would be a bitter retribution
for the choice she had made when she sent Brian Earle away,--a bitter
retribution for the selfish vanity which had made Rathborne her enemy.
She shuddered a little at the recollection of that enmity. Bravely
as she had borne herself before him, it was a dismaying thought that
such a power and such a will to injure menaced her. She thought of
her proud self-confidence when from the quiet convent she had stepped
into the world: her belief in her own ability to mould life, events,
and people to her wishes. And now with what absolute failure she was
threatened!--with what complete and hopeless loss of all that she
desired!

The next day her lawyer came with a grave face, and greeted her with an
air which was not lost upon her. "He thinks that it is all over with
me!" she said to herself; but, though her heart sank a little lower at
this proof of the weakness of her cause, she smiled on him brightly and
bravely enough.

"I suppose," she began, "that you have seen Mr. Rathborne, who was
so kind as to pay me a visit yesterday in order to give me some
interesting intelligence?"

"Yes, I have seen Mr. Rathborne," he answered; "and the news he brought
me was very unexpected and very serious."

"What do you think of it?" she asked.

The lawyer looked at her with surprise. The coolness of her tone and
the composure of her manner seemed to indicate that she by no means
appreciated the gravity of the danger which threatened her.

"I think," he replied, "that such a contest will be ruinous to you. No
court will be likely to sustain a will which entirely disinherits a
man's own son. Candidly, my advice to you is to compromise at once."

Marion did not say, "Advice should be asked before it is offered," but
her curling lip said so for her, and so did the manner in which she
ignored his suggestion.

"Before taking up a contest over the will," she said, "would it not be
well to be quite sure that the person who proposes to contest it is
indeed Mr. Singleton's son?"

Again the lawyer stared at her. Was it possible that he had not thought
of this?

"Of course," he replied, "that is most essential; but it is very easily
done. Mr. George Singleton has but to show himself. There are numbers
of people who will recognize him."

"Why does he not show himself, then? Why is he content with merely
writing to Mr. Rathborne instead of coming to look after his
inheritance himself?"

"Because it is all that is essential at present--to give us warning and
take the necessary legal steps. He will, of course, appear later."

"Let us demand that he appear at once," she said, with a decision of
tone and manner which more than astonished the lawyer. "I, for one,
distrust Mr. Rathborne utterly, and refuse most positively to transact
any business with him. If you can get the address of this reputed Mr.
Singleton, I beg that you will write to him, and say that we decline
to recognize his claim in any manner whatever until he shows himself
and establishes his identity. Then there will be time enough to talk of
contest or compromise. Am I not right in this?"

"Perfectly right," responded the stupefied man of business. Never (as
he afterward affirmed) had he been so surprised as by these energetic
instructions. He had come himself prepared to instruct; to find perhaps
unreasoning opposition, or hysterical complaining, which it would be
necessary to quiet and bring to some practical view of the case. But to
be met instead with this cool self-possession, these clear ideas and
precise directions, was little less than a shock to him. His own ideas
seemed to desert him as he sat and stared at the beautiful, resolved
face which confronted him.

"Certainly you are right," he said again, after a moment. "The identity
of the claimant is the first thing to be established; but--I confess
that I am a little surprised by your thinking of this point. Why should
it occur to you to doubt whether the person claiming to be Mr. George
Singleton is really himself?"

"Because," she answered, "in the first place I am sure (and you, no
doubt, are sure also) that his father believed him dead, else certainly
he would not have omitted his name entirely from his will. And he must
have had some reason for this belief. Again, as I have already told
you, I distrust Mr. Rathborne entirety. He would be perfectly capable
of bringing forth a false claimant."

"My dear young lady, that is a very serious, a very shocking charge.
Mr. Rathborne is a--well, a sharp practitioner, perhaps; but I have no
reason to suspect that he would be guilty of a criminal act. Indeed I
have every reason to believe that he would _not_."

"Your knowledge of Mr. Rathborne differs from mine, then," said Marion,
coldly. "I am certain that he would be guilty of any act which would
serve his purposes. And he has a motive for this which renders distrust
necessary. Therefore, I insist upon the appearance of Mr. Singleton and
the establishment of his identity before I will take any step whatever
toward noticing his claim."

"It is only a measure of precaution," said the lawyer, "and very well
thought of. You have an uncommonly clear head for business for a young
lady. I will, then, write at once to George Singleton; but I do not
advise you to build any hope on the probability of his proving a false
claimant. This conduct is altogether characteristic of him; and I, for
one, had always a suspicion that he was not dead."

"His father, however, must have had reason for believing him so."

"Perhaps--and perhaps not. Mr. Singleton was a man of the strongest
passions, and his son had outraged him in every particular. When, after
a long course of disregarding and defying his father's wishes, the
young man left home with the avowed intention of never returning, I
know that Mr. Singleton declared that he should be as one dead to him.
He only kept his word when he made his will."

"But do you not think that in such a case as that he would have
mentioned him, if only to declare that he disinherited him for good
cause?"

"It was not necessary, and he might not have desired to do so. He was a
singular man and a very reticent one. Even I, who knew him so long and
so well, have no idea whether he had any knowledge of his son's fate or
not. And this fact makes me believe that it is more than likely that
George Singleton is alive and ready to claim his inheritance."

"Let him come and do it, then," said Marion. "That is all."

And in this decision she was sustained by those who as well as herself
were interested in upholding the will. Mr. Tom Singleton shook his
head, and agreed with the lawyer that such a course of conduct was
very characteristic of George Singleton; but he also declared that it
would be folly to run any risk of playing into the hands of a false
claimant. "And when a man has disappeared for ten or fifteen years from
the sight and knowledge of everyone who knew him, there is reason to
fear that, with a fortune at stake, he might be personated by some
one else," he said. "Such things have happened time and again. You
are quite right to insist that he shall show himself. If he is George
Singleton I shall know him in half a minute, and then we can decide
what to do."

"It will prove to be George Singleton, I am sure," said his wife. "He
was always a malicious wretch, don't you know? And this is just like
him. But the puzzle to me is, how did he find out how things were in so
short a time?"

"He had a self-constituted informant here," said Marion. "Mr. Rathborne
took pains to discover his whereabouts, and to let him know the news of
his father's death and the contents of his father's will, as soon as
possible."

"Mr. Rathborne--oh, I understand!" said the lady. "Dear me, how many
malicious people there are in the world! And this is how he revenges
himself for your little flirtation with him, and for the loss of your
cousin's fortune! Well, my dear, I must say that you are likely to pay
heavily for what could not have been a _very_ great amusement."

Hot tears of mortification suddenly gathered in Marion's eyes. Surely
this was humiliation, to see her conduct as it looked in the eyes
of this shallow woman, and to be pitied (conscious that in the pity
there was a strain of exultation) for the downfall that awaited her
from Rathborne's revenge. If Helen knew, she might hold herself well
avenged; but, then, in Helen's gentle soul there was no room for any
revengeful sentiment.



CHAPTER XXIII.


It was soon apparent that no one except Marion herself had any doubt
but that George Singleton was alive, and that it was himself and no
impostor, who was claiming his inheritance. "The whole thing is so
exactly like him!" said Mrs. Singleton. "If it were not malicious, it
would not be characteristic of George. He wants to give as much trouble
and disappoint as many people as possible."

"He must possess an amiable and attractive character," said Marion,
faintly smiling. But as she smiled she said to herself that it was very
evident the arrangement she had entered into with Mrs. Singleton could
not stand. If the latter believed that it was only a question of time
till Mr. Singleton's son should appear, what further need was there for
her to conciliate and endure the girl who would soon have no power to
return her good offices? Instinctively Marion knew that she was asking
herself this question, and that it was best it should be answered at
once.

"I have been thinking," she observed, aloud, "that since there seems so
much doubt about the result of this matter, it will not be well for me
to make any change in my life at present. Our arrangements had better
be deferred indefinitely; and meanwhile I will stay here until Mr.
Singleton arrives."

Although Mrs. Singleton possessed considerable power of self-control,
she could not prevent her face from showing the relief she felt at
these words.

"I suppose it will really be best," she said. "It would be very awkward
for us, as well as for you, if we took up your cause, and, as it were,
identified ourselves with it, and then--"

"And then I relapsed back into my original insignificance," said
Marion. "Yes, I perceive. And, believe me, I have no desire to sail for
a time under false colors, or receive any attention which would be paid
only to Mr. Singleton's heiress. Moreover, if the business ends as you
evidently expect, I should have no power to return the obligation under
which you would have placed me. We will, therefore, say no more about
our plans, and I will quietly remain here."

"But you can not remain alone, and I _must_ get back home--"

"Do not let me detain you a day," said Marion, haughtily. "I am not
rich in friends, but I can find some one to stay with me, so long as I
need a companion; and it is only a question of money."

"Oh! yes, mere companions can be found in sufficient number--people
who will be delighted to come. But you ought to have some social
protection, some proper chaperon--"

"If all were settled as we thought, that would be necessary," Marion
interposed; "but since I may, very likely, soon be deprived of the
consequence that Mr. Singleton's money gives me, and since social
protection and proper chaperonage are altogether superfluous for a girl
without fortune, I need not trouble myself about them in this short
interval of waiting."

Mrs. Singleton said no more, but she confided to her husband her
opinion that Marion had given up all hope of being able to retain the
fortune. "And it has made her dreadfully bitter," she added. "You know
she always had a very cynical way of talking for such a young girl, but
now that is more pronounced than ever. Disappointment is going very
hard with her. I am almost sorry for her, although, of course, she has
no right to the money at all."

"She has the right that its owner chose to give it to her," said
philosophical Mr. Singleton.

But, although Marion put a bold front on the matter to Mrs. Singleton,
her heart really sank at the desolateness of her position. So long as
the fortune was still hers, she could buy a companion, as she could
buy anything else; but she saw in the eyes of everyone around her the
settled conviction that the fortune would be no longer hers. And then?

Meantime, however, it was necessary to make some arrangement, since
Mrs. Singleton was eager to be gone; and, turning over in her mind
the list of her few acquaintances in Scarborough--for friends she had
none,--Marion was asking herself rather blankly to which one she could
appeal for advice and assistance in her dilemma, when a servant entered
with the announcement that a lady desired to see her.

"A lady!" she repeated. "Who is she? Did she give no name or card?"

The servant replied that the lady had given neither, but that, in his
opinion, she was a genuine visitor--not an agent for patent soap or
anything else of the kind.

"I suppose I had better see her," said Marion, reluctantly; "but she
can not be a person of any importance, or she would have sent her name."

She went down stairs, slowly, indifferently, with a sense of mental
lassitude altogether new to her, entered the drawing-room, and found
herself face to face with Helen. She uttered a cry as the sweet,
affectionate face she knew so well turned toward her, and the next
moment they were in each other's arms.

"O Marion! I am so glad that you are glad to see me!" were Helen's
first words. "I was afraid that you might not be."

"Afraid that I might not be glad to see _you_!" said Marion. "How could
that be?--what reason could I have? But, O Helen, dear Helen! how good
it is of you to be glad to see _me_!"

"I know no reason why I should not be," replied Helen. "But I feared
that there might be some disagreeable recollection--something to
make you shrink from seeing me; so I thought I would spare you the
shrinking--I would let you have the shock at once. But it is no shock,
after all. The moment I saw your eyes, I knew you were glad."

"Oh! my dear, how kind you are!" cried Marion. "Glad! What should I be
made of if I were not glad to see you--the most generous heart in all
the world! But when did you come back to Scarborough?"

"Last night; and I would not write or let you know, because I wanted to
see you myself, without any warning. And so, Marion, your great desire
is accomplished--you have become rich since I went away!"

"And am on the point of becoming poor again," said Marion, with a
smile. "Have you not heard that?"

"No: I have heard nothing--but how can that be?--how can you become
poor again, unless you lose Mr. Singleton's fortune?"

"That is just what is going to occur--at least everyone thinks so. It
is said that Mr. Singleton's son is alive, and that if he chooses to
contest the will, it can not stand."

"O Marion! how sorry I am!"--the eloquent eyes said so indeed.--"To
think that you should have obtained what you wanted so much, only to
lose it at once! That is worse than if you had never possessed it."

"And do you see no retribution in it, Helen?" asked Marion, very
gravely. "Did not you, too, want something very much--the happiness
that had been promised you all your life,--and did you not lose it
through my fault? Believe me, I have thought of this; and, thinking of
it, I can make no complaint."

"I am sorry," said Helen, while a shade fell over her face, "that you
should speak again of _that_. I do not look at it quite as you do.
Happiness ought not to be our end in life.--I am not very wise, but I
know that, because I have faith to tell me so. No doubt I thought of it
too much; but even when I felt most about losing it, I was sure that
God must know best, and I did not really desire anything which was not
according to His will. How could one be so foolish as to do that? For
it certainly would not be happiness if it did not have God's blessing
on it."

"O Helen! Helen!" exclaimed Marion. It was a cry of mingled wonder and
self-scorn. Somehow the simple words touched her more than the most
eloquent appeal of any preacher could have done. For it was Helen who
spoke,--Helen, who had just learned her wisdom in the hard school of
practical experience, and who spoke thus to the person against whom
her heart might have been most bitter. "My dear," she went on after
a minute, "you are so good that you make me ashamed. I have learned
lately--yes, even I--what you lost, and how much you must have suffered
in the loss. It was through my own fault and by my own choice that I
lost my happiness; but you were blameless as an angel, and yet you talk
like an angel about it--"

"No, no," said Helen, quickly; "only like the most ordinary Catholic.
And that not without a struggle, Marion. Don't fancy me better than I
am."

"I don't fancy: I know you to be like something angelic compared to
me," returned Marion, with a sigh. "Do you think that I ever asked
myself anything about the will of God? I never even thought of Him in
connection with my desires."

"O Marion!"

"It is true. Don't expect me to say anything else; for, with all my
faults, I was never a hypocrite, you know. I thought nothing of Him,
I asked nothing of Him, and now I have nothing to fall back upon. My
happiness, like yours, is gone--with the difference that _I_ was not
worthy of it, whereas you were saved from a man who was not worthy
of _you_. And now the money for which I was ready to do anything and
sacrifice anything is in jeopardy, and no doubt will soon be gone."

"Has it brought you satisfaction since you have had it, Marion?"

"Do not ask me!" she said, sharply. "What is there in the world that
does bring satisfaction? But when I give it up, I shall have nothing,
absolutely nothing, left."

"You will have God's providence," answered Helen, gently. "Trust
a little to that; and tell me something--all if you will--about
yourself,--about what has happened since we parted, and what your plans
for the future are."

In past time, though Marion had always loved Helen, she had rather
despised her as a counselor; but now she felt it a relief beyond the
power of words to express, to open her heart, to tell her difficulties,
even to ask advice from one of whose affection and interest she was so
secure. For had she not lately learned how weary life can be when it
holds not a single friend, not one heart on which it is possible to
rely for disinterested aid or counsel? She told the story of her brief
engagement to Brian Earle, and did not resent the condemnation which
she read in Helen's eyes. Then a harder task was before her--to speak
of Rathborne's part in the appearance of George Singleton. She touched
on this as lightly as possible, but Helen quickly seized the fact.

"And so it was Paul who found him!" she said. "I am sorry for
that,--sorry, I mean, that he should have taken such a part in what did
not concern him, from the motive which I fear actuated him."

"He took pains to leave me in no doubt whatever about his motive,"
observed Marion. "I have seen him only once, and then I bade him do his
worst--produce his client without loss of time. When he is produced,
if he is properly identified, my dream of riches will be over; for I
shall give up the estate without a contest. But I will not give it
up until I am certain that I shall not be resigning it to a false
claimant."

"You do not think that Paul Rathborne would be guilty of fraud?" said
Helen quickly, in a pained tone; for the loyal heart was slow to resign
any one for whom it had ever cherished an affection or a trust.

"You forget," said Marion, waiving the question whether or not she
believed Rathborne capable of fraud, "that this man is in South
America, and no one here has seen him. Mr. Rathborne has only
communicated with him by letters. Now, what would be easier than for
some unscrupulous man to write in George Singleton's name, if the
latter were dead? Such things are of common occurrence. But it would be
difficult to personate him so as to deceive the many people who have
known him; and that is why I will take no step, nor even consider the
matter, until _he has been produced_."

"I suppose that is best," answered Helen. "And meanwhile what are you
going to do?"

"I am going to stay here, with what patience I may. How I am to live
alone, I do not exactly see--for Mrs. Singleton is going away; but now
that I have you again, I have taken heart. You will recommend some one
to stay with me."

"I will do better than that: I will take you home with me."

"Oh, no!" said Marion, shrinking a little; "that can not be. It is
like you, dear Helen, to propose it; but I do not think my aunt would
like--stop! I know she would be kind, and try not to show what she
felt; but I should be aware of it--aware that she has no respect for me
in her heart, and I should be more ill at ease there than here. This
is my home for the present; it may not be so long, and I may never
have another. So let me keep it while I may. Find me some good, quiet
woman--you know everyone in Scarborough--to stay with me; and come
yourself whenever you can, and I shall be content."

"There will be no difficulty in finding such a person as you want,"
said Helen. "But I think my plan is best."

Marion shook her head. "No," she insisted. "I abused your hospitality
once. I can never forget that; and I do not think that, kind and good
as she is, my aunt will ever forget it; so do not let us talk of my
going to you. Some day, perhaps, if I have no other refuge in the
world, I may come and ask you for a shelter, but not now."

She was immovable in this, even when Mrs. Dalton seconded Helen's
invitation; and so they did what she asked--found a pleasant, quiet,
elderly lady to stay with her; and let her have her own way.

It was a strange time, the period of waiting which followed--a kind of
interlude, a breathing space, as it were, between the rush of events
which had reached this conclusion, and other events which were to
follow and change life yet again, in what degree no one could say. It
seemed to Marion that she could hardly be said to live during these
weeks. She merely existed--in a state partly of expectation, partly
of that lassitude which follows a high degree of mental as well as
physical tension. She had passed rapidly through many experiences, many
intense emotions; and now, menaced by others of which she could not see
the end, she suddenly sank down to rest, like a soldier on the field of
battle.

She had but two sources of pleasure during this time: one was Helen's
companionship, which she had never before valued or appreciated; the
other, the services of the Catholic church. The plain little chapel,
which had at first repelled her, began to seem to her like a true home
of the soul; religious influences sank more and more deeply into her
heart; and dimly, as new ideas shape and present themselves, there
began to dawn on her the meaning of Helen's simple words. "It certainly
would not be happiness if it did not have God's blessing on it," Helen
had said. Was it because no blessing of God had been on _her_ happiness
that, in every form, it had so quickly eluded her grasp? She asked
herself this question, and when a soul has once asked it the answer is
not long in coming. But whether or not it will be heeded when it comes,
is too often a matter of doubt. Impressions pass quickly, the sway of
the world is hard to break, and who can tell how far the poor soul may
be swept into storm and darkness before it is brought safe into port at
last?



CHAPTER XXIV.


The period of waiting ended very abruptly one day. It was by this time
soft, Indian-summer weather; and Marion was seated in the garden with
Helen one afternoon, mellow sunshine and brilliant masses of flowers
all around them, when a servant appeared with the intelligence that Mr.
Singleton was in the house and wished to see her.

"Mr. Singleton!" she repeated, a little startled. "What Mr. Singleton?"

"Mr. Tom, ma'am," repeated the servant, who had been accustomed to
distinguish him in this manner during the life of the elder Mr.
Singleton.

"Oh!" she said. And then she turned to Helen with a faint smile. "I
don't know whether I am relieved or disappointed," she observed. "I
thought it was the other."

"But the other would hardly be likely to come without warning--and
alone," returned Helen.

"That is very true. But I wonder what this Mr. Singleton can want--if
he has any news?"

"You can only find out by going to see," said Helen.

"Yes," assented Marion. She rose as she spoke, and made a few steps
toward the house, then paused and looked back like one who is taking a
farewell. "The crisis must be at hand," she said. "I feel as if I were
on the verge of a great change. When I see you again, Helen, I may be
dispossessed of all my riches."

"Don't talk nonsense!" said Helen, in a matter-of-fact way. "How can
you be dispossessed in so short a time?"

The other laughed. "'If 'twere done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it
were done quickly,'" she said, and so went on toward the house.

Mr. Singleton, who was awaiting her in the drawing-room, came forward
and shook hands very cordially. They had always been good friends,
and he had a very kind feeling toward the beautiful and comparatively
friendless girl. This kindness had now an emphasis, which she
perceived, together with something of compassion. She looked at him and
smiled.

"Has the true heir appeared?" she asked; "and have you come to warn me
to prepare for abdication?"

"How shrewd you are!" he said. But, in truth, he was much relieved
that she was shrewd enough to divine the object of his visit,--a visit
which it had required a considerable effort on his part to undertake.
"The true heir--if you consider him so--_has_ appeared; but there is no
question of abdication for you. He will be very glad if you consent to
compromise, and so save him a contest over the will."

She sat down in a chair conveniently near, looking a little pale.
Notwithstanding her question, she had not really anticipated such
positive assurance at once; and recognizing this, Mr. Singleton
regretted having been so abrupt.

"I thought you expected it," he said; "but I see that you were not
quite prepared. I am sorry--"

She put up her hand with a gesture which stopped his words. "There is
nothing for which to be sorry," she said. "Of course I expected it,
but perhaps not so immediately or so positively. But I don't mean to
be foolish: I intend to be quite cool and business-like. Mr. George
Singleton has arrived, then. Have _you_ recognized him?"

"Perfectly. He has changed very little, considering all things, and
there can be no question of his identity."

"Are the other members of the family, and friends of the family, as
positive as yourself?"

"Yes: no one has a doubt but that it is George. In fact, no one could
have a doubt who had ever known him. He was twenty years old when he
went away, and of a very marked personal appearance. The change of
sixteen years is by no means so great as might be imagined. Appearance,
manner, habits--all prove that he is George himself. Indeed I must be
quite frank and tell you that there is not even a peg on which to hang
a doubt of his identity."

She looked at him for a moment in silence, her brow drawn together
by the earnestness with which she seemed trying to read his face. At
length she said, slowly: "I must trust your opinion; I have no one else
to trust. And I do not think you would deceive me."

"I certainly would not," he answered, gravely. "Why should I? Putting
honor aside, I have nothing to gain by espousing George Singleton's
cause. As a matter of fact, I do not espouse it at all. I merely come
to you as a friend, and tell you that he is certainly the man he
claims to be. And, under these circumstances, I think your best plan
will be to compromise with him as speedily as possible."

"Of that there is no question in my mind," she said, with her old air
of pride. "If I could, I would not retain the fortune of a man whose
son is living. Tell Mr. George Singleton that I will turn over his
father's estate to him as soon as may be."

"But that," said Mr. Singleton, with energy, "can not be allowed. As
one of the executors of the will, I should protest against it. Whether
my uncle believed in the death of his son or not, we can not know,
neither can we know how he would have acted if he had certainly been
aware of his existence. All that we have to deal with is the simple
fact that he left his fortune to you without even mentioning his son's
name; and this being so, it is not demanded of you--it is neither just
nor right--that you should turn it all over to him."

"But he is the natural and rightful heir to it, and no one shall ever
say of me that I grasped or held what rightfully belonged to another."

"My dear young lady, you said a moment ago that you intended to be
quite cool and business-like in discussing this matter. Allow me,
then, to put it before you in its business-like aspect. You are at the
present time the lawful possessor of my uncle's fortune by his direct
bequest, and unless the courts set aside his will you must remain so.
The issue of an attempt to set aside the will is, of course, uncertain;
and the contest would be long, troublesome and costly to all concerned.
Recognizing these facts, George Singleton says that he is willing to
agree on a liberal basis of compromise. And, since my uncle certainly
wished you to have _all_ his fortune why should you refuse to retain a
part of it?"

"I have already told you, because in justice it belongs to his son; and
why should I keep a part any more than the whole of what is not justly
mine?"

Mr. Singleton had an air of saying to himself, "Heaven grant me
patience!" but, possessing a good deal of that quality, he said aloud:
"How in the name of common-sense can that be held to belong to George
Singleton which has been given to you? Honestly, if you divide with him
it is as much as you can be expected to do."

"It is something I should despise myself for doing," she said, with a
sudden flush of color in her face. "You are very kind, Mr. Singleton,
and I really believe that you are considering my interest in this
matter. But you forget the position I occupy--that of an interloper who
has come in to take a fortune away from its natural heirs, and who,
no doubt, is held to have schemed to that end. _You_ know better than
that, I am sure; but the world does not know better, and Mr. George
Singleton does not know better. Now, I shall be glad to prove that,
although I value wealth and desire wealth--why should I deny it?--I
would not acquire it at the cost of my self-respect. Since you say Mr.
Singleton's son is certainly living, I do not feel that I have any
right to keep his fortune any longer than I can put it out of my hands.
Pray be good enough to tell him so."

"My dear Miss Lynde, I can not agree to tell him anything of the kind.
You must positively take time for consideration and advice."

She shook her head. "I do not need time, and I shall certainly not seek
advice. I have already made up my mind what to do. Can you imagine
that I have not considered this in the weeks that I have been waiting?
If you decline to give my message to Mr. Singleton, I shall have to
communicate with him directly myself."

"It would be best that you should communicate with him directly, if you
could by that means be brought to look at the matter in a reasonable
light, and see that there is no possible cause why it should not be
arranged on the basis of a liberal compromise. Half a million is surely
enough to divide."

She put out her hands, as if to push the proposal from her. "I will not
hear of it," she said. "I will not seem to grasp money which is not
mine. Do not argue the point further, Mr. Singleton. I appreciate your
kindness, but I can not yield."

"Well," he said reluctantly, "I am sorry for it. Believe me you are
making a great mistake, and one which, in the nature of things, you
must regret as time goes on. We are not young and impulsive forever,
and some day you will say, 'I had a right to my share of that fortune,
and I was wrong to give it up.'"

"It may be," she answered; "but I can not keep it now--I can not! Where
is Mr. George Singleton?--where can I address him, if you will not take
my message to him? It is impossible for me to address him through his
lawyer."

"He will have no use for a lawyer if you persevere in your intention,"
said Mr. Singleton, shrugging his shoulders. "As for his address, he
is here in Scarborough, and quite ready to wait upon you at your
convenience, if you will receive him."

She started. This was coming a little closer than she anticipated. And
yet, she asked herself, why not? "'Twere well it were done quickly,"
and it seemed likely now to be done quickly enough. After a moment
she said, steadily: "There is no reason why I should not receive him
whenever he likes to come, since you assure me that he is really the
man he claims to be."

"Of that there can be no doubt."

"Then let him come--the sooner the better. But do not let him bring Mr.
Rathborne with him. That person I cannot receive."

"I will come with him myself," said Mr. Singleton. "I should not have
thought of doing otherwise."

She held out her hand to him with a grateful gesture. "You are very
good to me--very kind," she said. "I shall never forget it."

"I wish you would let me be of some use to you, by taking my advice,"
he answered.

But when he went away it was with the reflection that women are surely
obstinate creatures; and, however charming they may be, they are, as
a rule, quite devoid of reason. Marion had proved immovable in her
resolution, as also in her determination not to take advice on it.
Once fully assured that the man purporting to be Mr. Singleton's son
was really so, her mind was made up what to do. She went back into the
garden like one moving in a dream, and told Helen the news.

"The fairy tale is over," she said; "my fairy fortune is about to slip
away from me. Am I sorry? I think I am more apathetic just now than
either glad or sorry. It has not brought me one day of happiness, but
I know the world well enough to be aware that it is better to be rich
and unhappy than poor and unhappy. Poverty aggravates every other evil;
and yet I am not grieved to have the opportunity to prove that I am not
so mercenary as--some people doubtless believe me. Brian Earle will not
think that I have schemed for his inheritance when he learns that I
have voluntarily given it up to his cousin."

Helen looked up with a keenness of perception which was rather
unusual in her soft eyes. "I think," she said, "that _that_ is the
consideration which moves you chiefly. But is it altogether a right
consideration? Mr. Earle does not injure you by believing what is
untrue of you, but you will injure yourself by giving up everything,
and surely you are not bound to do so. If Mr. Singleton had not desired
you to have part at least of his fortune, he would never have left you
all of it."

"One would think you had heard the arguments of the gentleman who has
just gone away," said Marion, smiling. "Dear Helen, don't make me go
over it all again. I fear that it is more pride than conscience which
makes me feel that I must resign the fortune. But I can never recover
my own self-respect until I have done so. And my own self-respect is
not another name for the respect of Brian Earle. If I were conscious
of being right I might not care that he thought ill of me; but my own
judgment echoes his. I have been willing to barter everything of value
in life for money, and now it is right enough that the money should
be taken from me. I feel as if by giving it up altogether I might
recover, not what I have lost--I do not dream of that,--but the right
to hope for some form of happiness again."

Helen gravely shook her head. "You talk like a pagan," she said. "All
this sounds like propitiating gods, and sacrificing to fate, and things
of that kind. The fact is, you are trusting entirely to your own
judgment in the matter, and that is strange; for there seems to me a
point of conscience involved. Either you have a right to a part of this
fortune, or you have not. If you have, why should you give it away to
a man who does not ask it and does not need it? While if you have not
a right, there would be no more to be said about it; you would have
the consciousness of some firm ground under your feet, and no reason
hereafter for regret."

"Helen, you astonish me!" said Marion, who certainly looked astonished
at this unexpected view of the case. "How on earth did you contrive to
get at the kernel of the thing in that manner?"

"Why, there is nothing surprising in that," remarked Helen. "It is the
way any Catholic would look at it. Things like that never trouble us.
There is always a plain right or a plain wrong."

"And where do you find the law or rule by means of which to tell what
is right and what is wrong?"

"There is no difficulty in that," was the reply. "We have certain
very clear rules given us, and if there is any difficulty in their
application we know where to go to have the difficulty solved."

"To a priest, I suppose?"

"Yes, to a priest. You can not think that strange if you remember that
the priest is trained in the most special and careful manner, as
well as enlightened by God, in order to enable him to deal with such
difficulties."

There was silence for a minute or two, while Marion, leaning back in
her chair, looked up at the deep-blue sky, and some golden boughs that
crossed it. Presently she said, in a meditative tone:--

"There do not seem to be any difficulties to speak of in this case,
but I should not mind putting it before some one altogether outside of
it, and without any interest in it. Still, I could not go to a priest,
because I am no Catholic."

"You are more of a Catholic than anything else," said Helen. "You know
that. And I think if you went to Father Byrne, and put the abstract
question to him, he would tell you what is right."

"You forget that I have no right to go to him. It would be presumption
on my part. Why should I, who do not belong to his people, trouble him
with my personal affairs?"

Helen smiled. "You don't know Father Byrne," she answered. "He is
always glad to serve any one. I know that, even as a friend, he would
gladly advise you. I will ask him, if you consent."

"Ask him what?"

"To see you and tell you what he thinks."

"Helen, you should not tempt me to make myself a nuisance. Besides,
Father Byrne does not like me, and that renders me more reluctant to
trouble him."

"What has put such an absurd idea into your head? Why should he not
like you?"

"Why? Ah! who can answer such questions? But realty in this case there
is an easy answer. He thinks me an objectionable sort of girl; I used
to see it in his face when we met at your mother's house. He would look
at me sometimes with a mild but quite decided disapproval when I had
been saying something particularly frivolous or satirical; and I did
not blame him in the least. How could he approve of me? _You_ are the
type of girl that he approves, and he is quite right."

"Marion, I wish you would not say such things."

"But they are true things. And, then, of course he knows the story of
how your engagement ended, and very likely thinks me worse than I am
in regard to that. Then I am worldly to the tips of my fingers; I have
inherited a fortune to which I have no right, and--well, there is no
good in going on. These are quite sufficient reasons why Father Byrne
does not like me, and why I should not trouble him."

"All this is absolute nonsense; and I will prove that it is, if you do
not positively object. I will go to him and ask him to see you, and you
will find how quickly he will say yes."

Marion laughed a little--a laugh without any merriment, only a kind
of sad self-scorn. "Upon my word," she said, "I am in so weak a frame
of mind that a straw might influence me; and this being so, it is a
comfort to trust to you, who will never lead any one wrong. Go to
Father Byrne, if you will; but don't be surprised if he declines to
have anything to do with me."



CHAPTER XXV.


It was without the least fear of Father Byrne's declining to have
anything to do with Marion that Helen went to him--and it was something
of a shock to her to find that Marion had been right in her opinion,
and that he very much disapproved of and distrusted that fascinating
young lady. He looked troubled at her request, and put out his lip in a
way he had when anything perplexed him.

"My dear child," he said, hesitatingly, "I really don't see what I can
do for your cousin. She is not a Catholic, she does not come to me for
religious advice; and if she wants a worldly opinion, there are many
people who could give it much better and with much more propriety than
I."

"She does not think so, Father, and neither do I. It is not merely a
worldly opinion, though it regards worldly matters; but a point where
conscience comes in, and she wants to know what is right."

"But why come to me?" he asked. "Has she not her own spiritual guides?"

"Marion!" said Helen. She laughed a little. "I cannot fancy Marion
regarding any Protestant as a spiritual guide; and since, as you say,
she is not a Catholic, she has none at all. But I believe that her
becoming a Catholic is only a question of time, and therefore she will
have confidence in your opinion."

Father Byrne put out his lip still farther and shook his head. "I do
not know very much of the young lady," he replied; "but from what I
do know I should say that her ever becoming a Catholic is more than
doubtful."

"I am afraid that you are prejudiced against her, Father," said Helen.

"I think not," he answered, gravely. "Why should I be prejudiced
against any one? But I should profit very little by my experience
of the world if I did not learn to judge character from some
manifestations. I do not wish to say anything severe of your cousin, my
child, but she has not impressed me favorably."

"Poor Marion!" said Helen. "She is and always has been her own worst
enemy. Nobody knows her as well as I do, Father--that is, nobody except
Claire;--and know how much good there really is in her. All that is
worse is on the surface; and she shows it so recklessly that people
think there is nothing else. But I see a great change in her of late,
and I think it would be well to encourage her in anything that draws
her nearer to religious influences. Therefore, if it is not asking too
much of you to see her and give her a little advice on this matter,
which is so important to her, I should be very glad."

"Should you?" asked the good priest, smiling. "Well, to make you glad
in such an unselfish way I would do a good deal. There is really no
reason why I should not give Miss Lynde the counsel she asks, though it
is rather curious that she should seek it from me. You can bring her
to me whenever it is convenient for you; and, if she does not object, I
should wish you to be present at the interview."

"She will not object," answered Helen; "and it is very good of you to
consent. I can bring her immediately, for I left her in the church
while I came to you. There is need for haste, because to-morrow
probably she will have to decide finally what she is to do."

"Bring her, then, at once," said Father Byrne, with an air of
resignation. He felt, though he did not say, that his own people
troubled him quite sufficiently with their personal affairs, without
an outsider finding it expedient to throw upon him the very perplexing
burden of decision in an affair which involved the interests of others.
And Marion Lynde was the last person with whose affairs he would have
wished to be concerned in the least degree. If any one beside Helen had
come to him in her behalf, he would certainly have refused to do so;
but it was impossible for him to refuse Helen. It was not only that he
was attached to her, as, in one degree or another, every one who knew
her was; but he was specially touched by her interest in and kindness
to one who had certainly been the cause of much pain to her, if not of
serious injury. "If she had not the most generous heart in the world,
she would not vex herself about Miss Lynde's affairs," he said to
himself; "but since she does, I should not mind helping her a little."

So it came to pass that Helen brought Marion from the church to
the pastoral residence adjoining, where they found Father Byrne
awaiting them in the plainly-furnished sitting-room, which had yet a
picturesque, monastic suggestion from the religious objects that were
its only adornments, and its latticed windows opening on depths of
verdure. The priest received them kindly; and then, with some inward
nervousness, though outward composure, Marion opened her subject.

"I feel that I have no right at all to come to you, Father, and trouble
you with my private matters; but perhaps your kindness will lead you
to excuse me on the ground that there is no one else to whom I can go.
I have not many friends, and among them there is not one person whose
judgment in this case would not have an interested bias. Besides, I
should like to know what is the moral view of it--the really right
thing to do,--and you, if you will, can tell me that."

"I can give you the view which would be presented to a Catholic," said
Father Byrne; "but you will not recognize anything binding in that."

"I shall be bound by whatever you tell me is right," she answered,
simply. "I do not seek your advice without meaning to be guided by it,
else there would be no excuse for coming to you. I beg you to speak as
frankly as if you were addressing a Catholic."

"Tell me, then," he said, "exactly the point on which you are in doubt."

She told him briefly, but with great clearness; and he listened
attentively to all that she had to say before uttering a word. Then
when she paused he replied, with the air of one who is accustomed to
give prompt decisions:--

"From what you tell me I think there can be no question but that you
are clearly entitled to retain a part of the fortune. Since it was the
desire of the testator that, under the circumstances of the supposed
death of his son, you should have all of it, we must believe that even
had he known his son to be living he would not have failed to leave
you a legacy. It would be entirely just and right, therefore, that you
should retain a part, while it is also right that you should resign the
bulk of the estate to its natural heir."

Helen directed a triumphant glance toward Marion, which said, "You
see how entirely Father Byrne is of my opinion!" but Marion did not
perceive it. She was looking down with rather a disappointed air.

"I should prefer to give it all up," she said--"to keep nothing."

Father Byrne spread out his hands with a gesture very familiar to those
who knew him well. "There is nothing to prevent that," he observed. "It
would not be wrong; but, if you will permit me to say so, it would be
foolish. Why should you wish to defeat entirely the kind intentions of
the dead man in your behalf?"

"I can hardly explain," she answered, "without going into personal
details, which would not interest you. About the manner in which I
received this money, my conscience is clear enough; for I did nothing
to induce Mr. Singleton to make such a will, and no one was more
surprised by it than I. But--before that--" she hesitated, paused, then
with an effort went on: "Everything might have been different if I had
acted differently at an earlier period. I made a very deliberate and
mercenary choice then. It led to this disposition of Mr. Singleton's
fortune; and now I feel that there is retribution, punishment,
whatever you like to call it, in the circumstances that are taking
it away from me. That makes me reluctant to keep any of it. I should
feel as if I were still being paid for--what I lost. I express myself
obscurely, but I hope that you understand me."

"Yes," he replied, "I think that I do. You feel as if this fortune had
been bought at a certain price, and therefore it has lost value in
your eyes. That is purely a matter of feeling, with which the abstract
question involved has nothing to do--unless there is some point on
which your conscience accuses you of wrong-doing."

She shook her head. "There is none directly touching the money. But,
indirectly, the money was the root of everything--of a choice which has
brought me no happiness."

"And you think, perhaps, that by resigning it you may recover what you
have lost?"

She colored vividly. "No," she said quickly, almost indignantly. "I
have no thought of the kind. That choice is made irrevocably. I can
recover nothing but my own self-respect."

Father Byrne looked a little puzzled. "I fail to see," he said, "how
your self-respect has been lost by having a fortune left you which you
declare you did nothing to secure. But that is a question for yourself
alone, since it is evidently a matter of feeling. The moral point I
have answered to the best of my ability."

"You think that I ought to retain part of this fortune?"

"I cannot go so far as to say that you _ought_. There is no moral
obligation binding you to do so, as far as I am aware of the
circumstances. I can only say that it is clearly right for you to do
so--if you think fit."

Evidently after this there was no more to be said; and Marion rose to
take leave, saying a few words of sincere thanks for the kindness with
which he had received her. "It has been very good of you to advise me,"
she said, gratefully. "I shall never forget it."

"I only hope that the advice may be of some use to you," answered
Father Byrne. "But it will be better if you ask God to guide and direct
you."

"Well, are you satisfied?" asked Helen, when they found themselves
outside. "Have you decided what to do?"

"Not yet," said Marion. "I have only been told what I may do, and I
must take a little time to decide whether or not I will do it."

"Then you have really gained nothing by going to Father Byrne," Helen
continued, in a disappointed tone.

"Oh, yes! I have gained a great deal," the other said quickly. "I seem
to feel myself standing on firm ground--to know just what I ought to do
and what I ought not, what is permitted and what is not. The question
still remains, however, whether or not to do what is permitted."

"I can't see that you have gained much," replied Helen, with a sigh.

But Marion felt that she had gained much when she faced the question
alone, as all important questions must at last be faced. She had been
assured that there was no reason why she should not retain a part of
the money which had come into her possession; and she said to herself
that even Brian Earle--indeed Brian Earle of all men--would recognize
the authority of the voice which had so assured her. She need not hold
herself grasping and mercenary if she did this--if she kept a little
of the fortune that its possessor had given to her in its entirety. So
much, therefore, was clear. But there could be no doubt that she would
prefer to give it all up--to close forever the passage in her life
which had been so bitter, and in the end so humiliating; to disprove by
a magnificent act of generosity all the charges of scheming which she
felt sure had been made against her, and to know that Brian Earle would
learn that none of his uncle's money remained in her hands.

But if she gratified herself in this manner what was before her?
Not only the old dependence, but a dependence which would be doubly
embittered by the resentment with which her relatives were sure to
regard the step which she thought of taking. "My uncle will never
forgive me," she thought. "He will say that I had no right to
throw away the means to help myself, and fall back on his already
overburdened hands. That is true. It will be bitter as death to do so.
And yet how can I keep this money? Oh, if I only had been spared the
necessity of such a choice! If it was wrong to desire wealth so much,
surely I am punished for it, since what it has brought on me is worse
than the poverty from which I have escaped. That, at least, was simple;
I had only to endure it. But this is fraught with serious consequences,
that go beyond myself and touch other people. What shall I do--ah! what
shall I do?"

She was walking up and down her chamber, all alone in the silence of
the night. Suddenly, as she wrung her hands with the silent force of
her inward appeal, Father Byrne's last words recurred to her memory:
"It will be better if you ask God to guide and direct you." She stopped
short. Was there any hope that God would really do this if she ventured
to ask Him? It proved how much of an unconscious pagan she was that
such a question should have occurred to her. But the imperative need at
this moment for some guidance, stronger even than that to which she had
already appealed, seemed to answer the question. She sank on her knees
and lifted her heart to Him who hears all petitions, begging, simply,
earnestly, like a child, to be directed into the course right and best
to pursue.

The next morning Marion's companion--a quiet, elderly widow--noticed
that she was more than usually restless; that she settled to no
occupation, but wandered from the house to the garden and back again;
from room to room and window to window, as if in expectation of some
event. Mrs. Winter was not a person easily "fidgeted:" she bore this
for some time without remark, but at length she was driven to say, "You
are looking for some one this morning?"

"Yes," answered Marion, promptly. "I am looking for two people, and I
have very important business to settle when they come. That makes me a
little restless. I wish it were over." Then she laughed a little. "It
is not every day, however, that one has a chance to see a dead man,"
she said. "That should prove interesting."

Mrs. Winter looked startled. "A dead man!" she repeated. "How--what do
you mean?"

"I mean," replied Marion, calmly, "that it is a case of the dead
alive. You have not heard, then? If you went out into Scarborough,
I fancy you would hear very quickly. Mr. Singleton's son, who was
supposed to be dead, has proved to be very much alive, and I am
expecting a visit from him to-day."

"My dear Miss Lynde!"--the good woman fairly gasped--"what a piece of
news! And how quietly you take it! Mr. Singleton's son alive! Good
Heavens! In that case, who will have the property?"

"That is what we are going to settle," said Marion. "It strikes me that
a son should inherit his father's estate; do you not think so?"

"I don't know," answered Mrs. Winter, more than ever confounded by
this cool inquiry. "Usually--oh! yes, I suppose so," she added after a
minute. "But in this case--the young man was so wild that his father
cast him off, did he not?"

"I never heard the story clearly from any one who had authority to tell
it," answered Marion. "I do not know what occurred between father and
son, but I am quite sure that Mr. Singleton believed his son to be dead
when he made the will in which he left me his fortune."

"Then, my dear, if I may ask, what do you mean to do?"

"What is right and honest," said Marion, with a faint smile. "Wish me
courage, for there is the door-bell!"



CHAPTER XXVI.


The first thing of which Marion was conscious when she entered the
drawing-room was that a pair of bold, bright and keen dark eyes were
instantly fastened on her. The owner of these eyes was a tall and
very striking-looking man, whose originally brunette skin was so
deeply bronzed by exposure to a tropical sun that he scarcely had the
appearance of a white man at all; but whose clear-cut features at once
recalled those of old Mr. Singleton, whose whole aspect was so unusual
and so remarkably handsome that it would have been impossible for him
either to personate or be mistaken for any one else. Marion recognized
this even while Mr. Tom Singleton was in the act of stepping forward to
take her hand, and said to herself that no one who had ever seen this
man once could doubt whether or not he was the person he assumed to be.

"How do you do this morning, Miss Lynde?" said Mr. Singleton, who tried
to conceal a certain awkwardness under more than his usual geniality
of manner. "I hope we have not disturbed you too early, but I had your
permission to present my cousin, Mr. George Singleton."

"Not my permission only, but my request," observed Marion, looking
at the tall, handsome stranger, who bowed. "I am very glad to see Mr.
George Singleton--at last."

"You are very good to say so," replied that gentleman, easily. "I
assure you that, so far from expecting you to be glad to see me, I feel
as apologetic as possible about my existence. Pray believe, Miss Lynde,
that I mean to give you as little trouble as possible. I have no doubt
we can soon arrive at an amicable arrangement."

"I have no doubt of it," said Marion, calmly. "But you will allow me to
say how sorry I am that any arrangement should be necessary,--that your
father was not aware of your existence when he made his will."

Mr. George Singleton shrugged his shoulders. "I am by no means certain
that my father believed me to be dead," he answered. "At least he had
no special reason for such a belief. He had indeed not heard from or
of me in a long time, because that was thoroughly settled when we
parted. I threw off his control, and he washed his hands of me. But I
hardly thought he would ignore me completely in his will. No doubt he
had a right to do so, for I had ignored every duty of a son; but he
should have remembered that he also had something to answer for in our
estrangement. However, that is neither here nor there. What I mean to
say is that the consciousness of my shortcomings will make me easy to
deal with; for I feel that my father was in great measure justified
when he selected another heir."

This cool, careless frankness was so unexpected that for a moment
Marion could only look at the speaker with a sense of surprise. He was
so totally unlike what she had imagined! His bold, bright glance met
hers, and, as if divining her thoughts, he smiled.

"Don't expect me to be like other people, Miss Lynde," he continued.
"Tom here will tell you that I never was. Even as a boy I was always a
law unto myself--a wild creature whom nothing could tame or restrain.
Perhaps it is because I am still something of a wild man that I see no
reason why we should not discuss and settle this business between us in
a friendly manner. I have only the most friendly sentiments for you,
being aware that my coming to life is rather hard lines for you."

Marion could not but respond to his smile and what seemed to be the
genuine though somewhat blunt friendliness of his manner. Yet when she
spoke her tone was slightly haughty.

"Pray do not think of me," she said. "The fact that your father left
his fortune to me was the greatest surprise of my life,--a surprise
from which I have hardly yet recovered. Naturally, therefore, it will
be no great hardship to give it up."

"But I don't ask you to give it up," replied the tall, dark man,
hastily. "There is enough to divide, and I assure you I am not a
grasping fellow. Ask Tom if I am."

Mr. Tom Singleton smiled. "If so," he observed, "you must have changed
very much."

"I haven't changed a particle. I did not give a thought to my father's
fortune when I left him: I was thinking only of freedom, of escape
from irksome control. And I hardly gave it a thought during the years
that I have been out yonder, thoroughly satisfied with my own mode of
life. I should not be here now but for the fact that a lawyer--what is
his name?--took the trouble to write and inform me that my father was
dead and I disinherited. Naturally one does not like to be ignored in
that way; so I replied, directing him to contest the will. But since
I have come, heard the circumstances of the case, and--and seen you,
Miss Lynde, I perceive no reason for any such contest. We'll settle the
matter more simply, if you say so."

"Seen you Miss Lynde!" It sounded simple enough, but the eyes of this
wild man, as he called himself, emphasized the statement so that Marion
could not doubt that her beauty might again secure for her an easy
victory--if she cared for it. But she did not suffer this consciousness
to appear in her manner or her voice as she replied:--

"We can settle it very simply, I think. Shall we now put aside the
preliminaries and proceed to business?"

"Immediately, if you desire," answered Mr. Singleton. He bent forward
slightly, pulling his long, dark moustache with a muscular, sunburned
hand, while his brilliant gaze never wavered from Marion's face. His
cousin also looked at her, apprehensively as it seemed, and gave a
nervous cough. She met his eyes for an instant and smiled gravely, then
turned her glance back to the other man.

"I am very sure, Mr. Singleton," she said, "that your father must have
left his fortune to me under a wrong impression of your death. If
this were not so he certainly left it under a false impression of my
character. To retain money of which the rightful heir is living, is
something of which I could never be guilty if every court of law in
the land declared that the will should stand. Your father's fortune,
then, is yours, and I will immediately take steps to resign all claim
of mine upon it."

"But I have not asked you to resign more than a portion of it,"
answered Singleton, impetuously. "It is right enough that you should
have half, since my father gave you the whole."

"You are very generous," she said, with a proud gentleness of tone;
"but it is quite impossible for me to keep the half of your fortune.
Your father would never have left it to me but for circumstances which
need not be entered into--he wished to punish some one else. But he
could never have wished to disinherit his son. I am certain of that.
He liked me, however--I think I may say as much as that; he was very
kind to me, and I believe that even if he had known of your existence
he might have remembered me with a legacy; do you not think so?" She
turned, as she uttered the last words, to Mr. Tom Singleton.

"I am sure of it," replied that gentleman.

"Believing this, I am willing to take what he would have been likely to
give. It is rather difficult, of course, to conjecture what the exact
amount would have been, but it seems to me that he would probably have
left me about ten thousand dollars."

Both men uttered a sharp exclamation. "Absurd! You must certainly take
more than that," said George Singleton.

"Remember that you are giving up half a million," remarked his cousin.

But Marion shook her head. "It is with extreme reluctance," she said,
"that I have decided to take anything. Mr. Singleton is aware that my
intention yesterday was to keep nothing, but I have been advised to the
contrary by one whose opinion I respect; and so I have determined to
take what I think your father, under ordinary circumstances, might have
given one with no claim upon him, but in whom he had taken an interest."

"But why should you fix upon such a paltry sum?" demanded George
Singleton. "There was nothing niggardly about my father. He was cold
and hard as an icicle, but he always gave like a prince."

"That would have been a very generous bequest to one who had touched
his life as slightly as I had," remarked Marion, "and who had no claim
upon him whatever--"

"He calls you his adopted daughter in his will."

"He was very good to me," she replied, simply, while tears came to her
eyes. "But I think he only said that to make such a disposition of his
fortune seem more reasonable. Your cousin here has perhaps told you, or
at least he can tell you, all the circumstances--how your father was
disappointed in some one else on whom he had set his heart."

"Brian Earle," said George Singleton, carelessly. "Yes, I know."

"Well, he thought that I had been disappointed too; and so--partly from
a generous impulse to atone for the disappointment, and partly from
a desire to punish one who had greatly angered him--he made _me_ his
heir. But it was all an accident, a caprice, if I may say so; and if he
had lived longer he would have undone it, no doubt."

"You did not know my father if you think so," said the son, quietly.
"He had caprices perhaps, but they hardened into resolutions that
never changed. Who should know that better than I? No, no, Miss Lynde,
this will never do! I can not take a fortune from your hands without
litigation or any difficulty whatever, and leave you only a paltry ten
thousand dollars. It is simply impossible."

"It is altogether impossible that I can retain any more," answered
Marion. "As I have already said, I would prefer to retain none at all;
and if I consent to keep anything, it can only be such a moderate
legacy as might have been left me."

"As would _never_ have been left to you! My father was not a man to do
things in that manner. What was your legacy, Tom?"

"Fifty thousand dollars," replied Mr. Tom Singleton.

"Something like that I might agree to, Miss Lynde, if you will insist
on the legacy view of the matter; but I should much prefer to simply
divide the fortune."

"You are certainly your father's son in generosity, Mr. Singleton,"
said Marion. "But believe me you are wasting words. My resolution is
finally taken. I shall make over your fortune to you, retaining only
ten thousand dollars for myself. That is settled."

It was natural, however, that neither of the two men would accept this
settlement of the case. Both declared it was manifestly unjust, and
each exhausted his powers of argument and persuasion in trying to move
Marion. It was a singular battle; a singular turn in an altogether
singular affair;--and when at last they were forced to go without
having altered her resolution, they looked at each other with a sense
of baffled defeat, which presently made George Singleton burst into a
laugh.

"By Jove!" he said, "this is a reversal of the usual order of things.
To think of a disinherited man, instead of having to fight for his
rights, being forced to beg and pray that his supplanter will keep a
fair share of the inheritance! What makes the girl so obstinate? Has
she money besides?"

"I don't believe that she has a sixpence," replied his cousin.

"Then what on earth, in the name of all that is wonderful, is the
meaning of it? She does not look like a fool."

Mr. Singleton laughed. "Miss Lynde," he said, "is about as far from
being a fool as it is possible to imagine. We all thought her at first
very shrewd and scheming, and there is no doubt but that she might have
wound your father round her finger without any trouble at all. She is
just the kind of a person he liked best: beautiful, clever--_he_ never
fancied fools, you know,--and she charmed him, without any apparent
effort, from the first. But if she schemed for any share of his fortune
it was in a very subtle way--"

"In the light of her conduct now, I don't see how it is possible to
believe that she ever schemed at all," interposed the other.

"I _don't_ believe it," said Tom Singleton; "although the fact remains
that, in choosing between Brian and his uncle, she stood by the latter."

"There might have been other than mercenary considerations for that.
I can't imagine that this splendid creature ever cared about marrying
Brian."

Mr. Singleton did not commit himself to an opinion on that point.
He said, diplomatically: "It is hard to tell what a woman does care
to do in such a case, and Miss Lynde by no means wears her heart on
her sleeve. Well, the long and short of the matter was that Brian
obstinately went away, and that your father made this girl his
heir--for the very reasons she has given, I have no doubt. She was most
genuinely astonished when I told her the news, and my belief that she
had ever schemed for such a result was shaken then. But from something
she said to me yesterday I think she is afraid that such a belief
lingers in people's minds, and she is determined to disprove it as
completely as possible. Hence her quixotic conduct. I can explain it in
no other way."

"She is a queer girl," observed George Singleton, meditatively; "and so
handsome that I don't wonder she knocked over my father--who was always
a worshiper of beauty,--and even that solemn prig, Mr. Brian Earle,
without loss of time."

"She knocked over another man here in Scarborough, who has a hand
in her affairs at present," said Mr. Singleton, significantly. "Did
it ever occur to you to wonder why that fellow Rathborne should
have interested himself to look you up and notify you of your lost
inheritance?"

"Why should I wonder over anything so simple? Self-interest prompted
him, of course. If there had been a contest over the will, he might
have pocketed a considerable slice of the fortune."

"Well, I suppose that influenced him; but his chief reason was a desire
to do Miss Lynde an ill turn, and so revenge himself for her having
trifled with his feelings."

"You are sure of this?" asked George Singleton, with a quick look out
of his dark, flashing eyes.

"Perfectly sure. Everyone in Scarborough knows the circumstances. He
considered himself very badly used, I believe--chiefly because he was
engaged to Miss Lynde's cousin; and the latter, who is something of
an heiress, broke the engagement. He fell between two stools, and has
never forgiven her who was the cause of the fall."

"The wretched cad!" said George Singleton, emphatically. "As if
anything that a woman could do to a man would justify him in such
cowardly retaliation! I am glad you told me this. I will end my
association with him as soon as may be, and let him know at the same
time my opinion of him--and of Miss Lynde."

"Do be cautious, George. I shall be sorry I told you the story if you
go out of your way to insult the man in consequence. No doubt he _was_
badly used."

The other laughed scornfully. "As if that would excuse him! But I
don't believe a word of it. That girl is too proud ever to have taken
the trouble to use _him_ badly. But a man might lose his head just by
looking at her. What a beauty she is!"



CHAPTER XXVII.


"And now the question is--what am I to do?" It was Marion who asked
herself this, after the departure of the lawyer, who, with some
remonstrance, had taken her instructions for drawing up the necessary
papers to transfer to George Singleton his father's fortune. It was
not with regard to the act itself that the lawyer remonstrated--_that_
he thought just and wise enough,--but with regard to the sum which the
heiress of the whole announced her intention of retaining.

"You might just as well keep fifty or a hundred thousand dollars," he
declared. "Mr. Singleton is willing to relinquish even so much as half
of the fortune; and it is absolute folly--if you will excuse me--for
you to throw away a comfortable independence, and retain only a sum
which is paltry in comparison to the amount of the fortune, and to your
needs of life."

"You must allow me to be the best judge of that," Marion replied,
firmly.

And, as she held inflexibly to her resolution, the lawyer finally
went away with the same baffled feeling that the Singleton cousins
had experienced. "What fools women are when it comes to the practical
concerns of life!" he said, from the depths of his masculine scorn.
"They are always in one extreme or the other. Here is this girl, who,
from what I hear, must have been willing to do anything to secure the
fortune, now throws it away for a whim without reason!"

Meanwhile Marion, left face to face, as it were, with her accomplished
resolve, said to herself, "What am I to do now?"

It was certainly a necessary question. To remain where she was, living
with the state of Mr. Singleton's heiress, was impossible; to go to her
uncle, who would be incensed against her on account of the step she had
taken, was equally impossible; to stay with Helen, however much Helen
in her kindness might desire it, was out of the question. Where, then,
could she go?--where should she turn to find a friend?

Marion was pacing up and down the long drawing-room as she revolved
these thoughts in her mind, when her attention was attracted by her
own reflection in a mirror which hung at the end of the apartment. She
paused and stood looking at it, while a faint, bitter smile gathered on
her lip. Her beauty was as striking, as indisputable as ever; but what
had it gained for her--this talisman by which she had confidently hoped
to win from the world all that she desired? "I have been a fool!" she
said, with sudden humility. "And now--what remains to me now?"

It almost seemed as if it was in answer to the question that a servant
at this moment entered, bringing the morning mail. Marion turned over
carelessly two or three papers and letters, and then suddenly felt a
thrill of pleasure when she saw a foreign stamp and Claire's familiar
handwriting. She threw herself into a chair and opened the letter.

It was dated from Rome. "I am at last in the city of my dreams and
of my heart," wrote Claire; "pleasantly settled in an apartment with
my kind friend Mrs. Kerr, who knows Rome so well that she proves
invaluable as a _cicerone_. Already I, too, feel familiar with this
wonderful, this Eternal City; and its spell grows upon me day by day.
Now that you have gained your fairy fortune, dear Marion, why should
you not come and join me here? I have thought of it so much of late
that it seems to me like an inspiration, and I can perceive no possible
reason why you should not come. Pray do. It would make me so happy to
see you, and I am sure you would enjoy many things which form part of
our life here. Having lived abroad many years with her husband (who
was an artist), Mrs. Kerr has a large cosmopolitan acquaintance, and
her _salon_ is constantly filled with pleasant and interesting people.
Come,--Marion, come! I find every reason why you should, and none
why you should not. Have I not heard you say a thousand times that
you wanted to see this world, and do not I want to see you and hear
all about the magical change that so short a time has made in your
fortunes? Write, then, and tell me that you will come. Helen has had
you for months, and it is my turn now."

"Ah, how little she knows!" Marion thought with a pang as she read the
last words. The letter dropped from her hand into her lap; she felt
as if she hardly cared to read further. Would Claire desire to see
her if she knew the story of all that had happened since they parted?
There was no one else in the world from whose judgment Marion shrank
so much, and yet this summons seemed to her more of a command than an
invitation. It came as an answer to her doubts and indecision. "What
shall I do?--where shall I go?" she had asked herself. "Come to me,"
Claire answered from across the sea; and it seemed to her that she had
no alternative but to obey--to go, even though it were to meet Claire's
condemnation.

That condemnation would be gentle, she knew, though perhaps unsparing.
Helen's affection had indeed returned to her in a degree she could
never have expected; but it is impossible that the stronger nature can
depend upon the weaker, and she knew it was for Claire's unswerving
standards and Claire's clear judgments her heart most strongly yearned.

So the way opened before her, and when she saw Helen next she announced
her intention of going abroad to join Claire. "It seems the best--in
fact, it is the only thing I can do," she said. "And Claire is good
enough to want me. She fancies me still in possession of what she calls
my fairy fortune--not knowing how fairy-like indeed it has proved,--and
writes as if expense would be no consideration with me. But a mode
of life which is not too expensive for her surely will not be too
expensive for me with my ten thousand dollars. So I shall go."

"I suppose it is best," said Helen, wistfully; "and if it were not for
mamma I would go with you."

The tone was a revelation to Marion of all that the tender, submissive
heart was suffering still. "Why should your mother object?" she asked,
quickly. "Come, Helen--come with me; and when we find Claire, let us
try to forget everything but the pleasure of being together again."

"I should like it," replied Helen, "but it is not possible. I know how
long mamma has looked forward to the pleasure of having me with her,
and I can not go away now for my own selfish satisfaction, leaving her
alone. Besides, I doubt if running away from painful things does much
good. It is better to face them and grow resigned to them, with the
help of God."

"I am sure that God must help _you_," cried Marion, "else you could
never learn so many wise and hard things."

Helen looked at her with a little surprise in her clear blue eyes. "Of
course He helps me," she answered. "When does He not help those who ask
Him?"

"O Helen! if I only had your faith!" exclaimed Marion, with positive
pain in her voice. "How easy it would make things!"

"Yes," replied Helen, with her sweet smile, "it does make things easy."

But before Marion could complete her preparations for departure, she
was obliged to see Mr. George Singleton again and yet again. He came
in the first place to remonstrate forcibly against her intentions with
regard to the fortune, and found her society sufficiently attractive to
induce him to pay inordinately long visits after he had discovered that
his remonstrances were vain. "He is certainly very unconventional,"
Marion observed after one of these visits. "He does not strike one
so much as violating social usage, as being ignorant of and holding
it in contempt. In essential things he is a gentleman; but that his
father--one of the most refined and fastidious of men--should have had
a son who is half a savage, strikes me as very strange."

Young Singleton did not hesitate to speak of himself as altogether
a savage, and to declare that the strain of wild lawlessness in his
nature had brought about the estrangement between his father and
himself. "Of course I am sorry for it all now," he said frankly to
Marion; "but I don't see how it could have been avoided, we were so
radically different in disposition and tastes. My father was a man
to whom the conventionalties of life were of first importance, who
held social laws and usages as more binding than the Decalogue; while
I--well, a gypsy has as much regard for either as I had. I irritated
and outraged _him_ even when I had least intention of doing so; and he,
in turn, roused all the spirit of opposition in _me_. I do not defend
my conduct, but I think I may honestly say that he had something for
which to blame himself. We were miserable together, and it ended as
you know. He said when we parted that he had no longer a son, and I
took him at his word--perhaps too literally. And that being so, Miss
Lynde--his renunciation of me having been complete, and my acceptance
of it complete also,--I really do not think that I have a right to come
and take all his fortune."

"I am sorry if you have scruples on the subject, Mr. Singleton," Marion
answered, quietly. "They ought to have occurred to you before you moved
in the matter; now they are too late. I can not possibly accept the
odium of holding a man's fortune when his own son is alive and has
claimed it."

"But you know that I have always said I should be satisfied with part--"

Marion lifted her hand with a silencing gesture. "I know," she said,
"that the affair is finally settled, and not to be discussed anymore.
I am satisfied, and that ought to satisfy you. Now let us talk of
something else. Are you aware that I am going abroad?"

"No," he replied, quickly, with a startled look. "Where are you going?"

"To Rome. I have a friend who is at present living there, and I am
going to join her."

"But why?"

The point-blank question was so much in character with the speaker that
Marion smiled.

"Why?" she repeated. "Well, I have nothing to keep me in this country,
I am fond of my friend, and I wish to see the world--are not those
reasons enough?"

"Perhaps so," he answered. He was silent for a moment, staring at her
with his large, dark, brilliant eyes in a manner which tried even her
self-possession. Then he asked, abruptly: "When are you going?"

"As soon as I can arrange my affairs. That sounds like a jest, but it
is not: I really have some affairs to arrange. They will not occupy me
very long, however. I shall probably leave in a week or ten days."

"Oh--I thought you might be going to-morrow!" said Mr. Singleton, with
an air of relief.

After that he was a daily visitor,--such an open, persistent,
long-staying visitor, that all Scarborough was soon on tiptoe
of expectation. What did it mean? What would be the end of this
sensational affair? Would the legitimate heir of the fortune marry the
girl who had given it up without a contest? People began to say that
Miss Lynde had been shrewd, and had known very well all the time what
she was about.

Miss Lynde, on her part, felt as if she would never reach the end of
the difficulties which seemed to evolve out of one another, according
to a process of evolution with which we are all familiar. Had her
passionate desire for wealth created a sort of moral Frankenstein,
which would continue to pursue her? When, after a struggle known only
to herself, she had decided to resign the fortune, she had thought that
she cast away all perplexities arising out of it; but now it appeared
that she had resigned only the money, and that the difficulties
and perplexities remained. For, as clearly as any one else, she
perceived--what indeed George Singleton made no effort to conceal--the
object of his constant and assiduous attentions. The fortune she had
given up was to be offered her again: she would again be forced to make
a difficult choice.

For all that has been written of Marion Lynde has been written to
little purpose if any one imagines that wealth had lost its glamour
in her eyes, or that her old ambitions were dead within her. They had
been for a time subdued,--for a time she had realized that one might be
crushed by the weight of a granted prayer; but the old desires and the
old attraction still remained strong enough to prove a potent force in
the hour of temptation.

And she began to feel that it might be a temptation to regain in the
most entire manner the fortune she had resigned; to cast one glance of
triumphant scorn at Rathborne, who had fancied himself scheming for her
downfall; to receive Mrs. Singleton's cousinly congratulations; and,
above all, to prove to Brian Earle how easily she could console herself
for his desertion--how readily another man offered the homage he had
withdrawn. Yes, all these things were temptations; for the sway of the
world, of natural inclinations and passions, was still strong in this
soul, which had leaned toward higher things without embracing them.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Marion did not in the least relax her preparations for departure, and
she gave no sign to Mr. Singleton of perceiving the end which he had in
view. They progressed very far toward intimacy in the course of their
long interviews; but it was an intimacy which Marion regulated, and
to which she gave its tone, preserving without difficulty command of
the situation. Yet even while she commanded it, an instinct told her
that the hour would come very soon when this man would assert himself;
when her time of control would be over, and the feeling that betrayed
itself in his eyes and voice would find expression in a manner beyond
her power to regulate. Nevertheless, she was hardly prepared for the
declaration when it came one day, abruptly and without anticipation on
her part.

"I think, Miss Lynde," said Singleton, "that it is time you and I
understood each other--or, at least, that I understood _you_; for I am
pretty sure that you understand _me_ thoroughly. You know perfectly
well that I am in love with you. Do you intend to marry me?"

"Mr. Singleton!" exclaimed Marion, startled and considerably
discomposed. "Do I intend--" she repeated. "How could I possibly have
any intention in--in such a matter? That is a very extraordinary way of
speaking."

"Is it?" said Singleton. "But you do not expect an ordinary way of
speaking from me; for do you not make me understand every day how much
of a savage I am? What can I do except ask your intentions? For you
cannot say that you do not know I am in your hands to be dealt with as
you like."

"I know nothing of the kind," she answered, hastily. "Why should I know
it? I have been glad that we should be friends, but beyond that--"

"Do not talk nonsense!" he interrupted, somewhat roughly. "You are too
clever a woman not to have been aware from the first that there was no
friendship about it. As soon as I saw you, I made up my mind that I
would marry you if you would agree to it. And why should you not agree?
It will settle all difficulties about the fortune, and I am not really
a bad fellow at heart. I assure you of that."

"I think I know very well what kind of fellow you are," said Marion,
smiling in spite of herself. "Certainly not one who is formed on a very
conventional model. I like you very much--I am sure you know that,--but
I have no intention of marrying you."

It cost her something of an effort to say this--to put away, finally as
it were, the glittering prize that life had cast in her way. But, thus
brought face to face with the necessity for decision, she found that no
other answer was possible to her. Yet the form of words that she chose
did not convey her meaning in an unalterable sense to the man watching
her with such keen, brilliant eyes.

"You have no intention of marrying me!" he repeated. "Does that mean
that you will not form any such intention--that you will not take the
subject into consideration?"

"There is no reason why I should," she replied. "It is best that you
should think no more of it."

"I can not agree to that," he said. "On the contrary, it seems to me
best, from every point of view, that I should continue to think of it,
and endeavor to bring it to pass. I warn you that I am not a man who
is easily daunted. Unless you intend to marry some one else, I shall
continue my efforts to induce you to marry me."

"Not if I tell you there is no use in such efforts?" said Marion.

"You can not possibly tell whether there would be use in them or not,"
he persisted, "unless you are decided with regard to some other man. If
so, I hope you will tell me."

"There is no other man in question," she said, coldly. "I may surely be
supposed to know my own mind without being bound to any one."

"And I know mine," he replied, "so positively that, until you are bound
to some one else, I shall not relinquish the hope of inducing you to
marry me. I give you fair warning of that."

"Really, Mr. Singleton," said Marion, who hardly knew whether to be
vexed or amused, "you are a very singular person. Are you not aware
that a man must abide by the woman's decision in such a matter as this?"

"I am not so uncivilized as you imagine," he answered. "Of course I
know it. But everywhere and always he has the right of endeavoring to
change that decision if he can. And I have a double reason for desiring
to change yours. I not only want to marry you, but I also want you to
have your share of my fortune."

"I have no share in it," she said, haughtily--for surely such a
persistent suitor as this promised to be very troublesome;--"you know
that well, and you know also that I have forbidden you to speak of it
to me."

"Henceforth I will endeavor to obey you," he answered, with the
courtesy which now and then contrasted oddly with the usual abruptness
of his manner. "But you can not forbid me to think of it--nor of you."

"I hope," she said, "that when I go away you will very soon cease to
think of me."

He smiled. "Do you think," he asked, "that I shall not follow you? The
way to Europe is as open to me as to you."

"But if I forbid it?" she cried, with a sudden sense of dismay.

"You have no right to forbid it," he answered, quietly. "I have no
intention of accompanying you, and I have surely been guilty of nothing
which could lead you to disown my acquaintance should we meet in Rome
or elsewhere."

Marion fancied that after his declaration, and the refusal with which
it had been met, George Singleton would leave Scarborough, since he had
certainly no business to detain him there. But that gentleman proved
himself to be of another opinion. He not only remained in Scarborough,
but he continued his visits with the same regularity which had
characterized them before. Partly vexed, partly amused, Marion,
nevertheless, took precautions to guard against any embarrassing
renewal of his suit. She ceased to receive him alone, and whenever it
was possible she turned him over to Helen for entertainment. To this
he apparently did not object in the least. He had hardly met Miss
Morley before, and her soft gentleness charmed him. It was the type of
womanhood best suited to his own passionate, impulsive nature; and he
yielded to its influence with an _abandon_ that surprised himself.

"You have no idea what an effect you have upon me," he said to her on
one occasion. "When I come into your presence I am like a cat that is
smoothed the right way--you put me into harmony and accord with all the
world."

It was impossible not to laugh at the frankness of this assertion, as
well as the homeliness of the comparison. "I am very glad to hear that
my presence has a good effect upon you," said Helen; "although I do not
know why it should be so."

"I suppose some people would call it magnetism," he answered; "but I
think it is simply owing to the fact that your nature is so placid
and gentle that you exercise a calming influence upon the passions of
others."

"My nature is not so placid and gentle as you imagine, perhaps," she
said, with something of a shadow stealing over her face. "I have
passions too."

"Have you?" he asked, rather incredulously. "Well, if so they must
be of a very mild order, or else you understand managing them in a
wonderful manner. I wish you would teach me how to manage mine."

She looked at him with her blue eyes, and shook her head. "I am afraid
you would not care to learn the only thing that I could teach," she
said.

"Why not? I think that I should like to learn anything that you would
teach."

"Perhaps, then, if our acquaintance lasts long enough, I may take you
at your word some day," she replied, smiling.

In saying this she thought herself very safe; for she had little idea
that their association would outlast the day on which Marion left
Scarborough. She knew that the latter had been offered the opportunity
of regaining her lost fortune in the most legitimate and satisfactory
way, and had little doubt but that the matter would end by her
accepting George Singleton.

"For Marion was never meant to be poor," she said to herself; "and he
really seems to have a great deal of good in him--much more than one
could have fancied. And he takes her treatment of him very nicely. It
is kind of him to seem to like my society, instead of finding me a
dreadful bore."

She said as much as this to Marion, who laughed. "There is very good
reason for his not finding you a bore," Marion replied. "He enjoys your
society much more than mine--it suits him better. I can see that very
plainly. In fact, the thing is, that he and I are too much alike to
assimilate well. We are both too fiery, too impulsive in our natures
and strong in our passions. You are the counteracting influence that we
need. Instinct tells him so, as experience tells me."

"Marion, what utter nonsense!"

"So far from that, the very best sense, my dear. There is only one
person who has a more beneficial influence upon me than you have. That
is Claire, and I am going to her. If Mr. Singleton is wise he will stay
with you."

"If I thought you were in earnest in saying such a thing as that, you
would really provoke me," said Helen, gravely.

"Then you may be sure that I am not in earnest," cried Marion; "for I
would do anything sooner than provoke you. No man in the world is worth
a single vexed thought between you and me."

It was a few days after this that, everything being at last
settled, she finally left the place where she had gained and lost a
fortune,--where she had sounded some depths of experience and learned
some lessons of wisdom that could not soon be forgotten.

"Marion," said Helen the evening before her departure, "I am going to
have a Mass said for my intention to-morrow morning--and, of course,
that means you. Will you not come to the church?"

"With pleasure," answered the other, quickly. "Indeed I am not so
absolutely a heathen but that I meant to go, in any event. I am setting
out anew in life, as it were; and I should like to ask God to bless
this second beginning, as I certainly did not ask Him to bless the
first."

"Then you will be at the church at eight o'clock?" said Helen. "And
afterward breakfast with me, so that you will not need to return here
before meeting your train. I should like the last bread that you break
in Scarborough to be broken with me."

"It shall be exactly as you wish," observed Marion, touched by the
request, which meant more, she knew, than appeared on the surface. For
it was not only that Helen wished to renew the link of hospitality--not
only that she desired, as she said, that the last bread broken by
Marion in Scarborough should be broken with her in token of their
renewed amity,--but she wished to show to all the world that had so
curiously watched the course of events in which the beautiful stranger
was concerned, that their friendly and cousinly relations were
unchanged. All this Marion understood without words.

Eight o'clock the next morning found her in the church. As she
acknowledged, she had asked no blessing of God on her former beginning
of life--that life which had come to such utter failure in every
respect; and in the realization of this failure much of her proud
self-confidence had forsaken her. She had asked only that opportunity
should be given, and she had felt within herself the power to win all
that she desired. Opportunity _had_ been given, and she had ended by
losing everything, saving only the remnant of her self-respect and
Helen's generous affection. These thoughts came to her with force as
she knelt in the little chapel, knowing that she was going forth to
a new life with diminished prospects of worldly success, but with a
deeper knowledge of herself, of the responsibilities of existence, and
of the claims of others, than she had possessed before.

Then she remembered how she had knelt in this same place with Brian
Earle, and felt herself drawn near to the household of faith. It had
been an attraction which had led to nothing, because it had been
founded on human rather than on divine love. Now that the human love
was lost, had the divine no meaning left? The deep need of her soul
answered this; and when she bent her head as the priest at the altar
offered the Holy Sacrifice, it was with a more real act of faith and
worship than she had made on that day when it seemed as if but a step
divided her from the Church of God.

Mass over, she went to say a few words of farewell to Father Byrne, and
then accompanied Helen home. It had been a long time since she entered
her aunt's house; and the recollections of her first coming into it,
and of the welcome which had then met her, seemed to rush upon her as
she crossed the threshold. "If it were only to do over again!" she
thought, with a pang. When they sat down to breakfast she glanced at
the place which she had so often seen Rathborne occupy, and thought
that but for her Helen might never have been undeceived, might never
have suffered with regard to him. "At least not in the way she has
suffered," she said to herself. "In some way, however, she must have
suffered sooner or later. Therefore perhaps it is best as it is--for
her. But that does not excuse me. If only I might be permitted to make
some atonement!"

But atonement is difficult to make in this world, either for our
mistakes or our wrong-doing. The logic of life is stern indeed. From
certain acts flow certain consequences as inevitably as conclusions
proceed from premises or night follows day. It is vain to cry out that
we had no such end in view. The end comes despite our protests, and we
are helpless in the face of that which springs from our own deed.

These reflections had in great measure become familiar to Marion,
especially with regard to the pain she had brought upon Helen. She had
been forced to realize clearly that what it would have been easily
possible for her to avoid, it was absolutely impossible for her to
repair. To Helen's own goodness, generosity and gentleness she owed
the relief that had come to her on the subject. Nevertheless, she
longed greatly for some means of repairing the injury she had done, the
suffering she had caused, and--was it an inspiration which suddenly
seemed to suggest to her such a means?



CHAPTER XXIX.


Breakfast over, they went into the familiar sitting-room--for there
was still an hour or two before Marion's train was due,--and it was
there that Helen said, with a smile: "Mr. Singleton is coming to see
you off: I met him yesterday evening after I left you, and he announced
his intention of doing so; so I asked him to come here and accompany
us to the train. Of course there is no _need_ of him: the boys will do
all that is necessary; but I thought it would look better. People have
talked so much about you both, that I would like them to have a public
proof that you are really on very good terms."

"You think of everything, Helen," said Marion. "What a wise little head
you have!"

"Do you think it is the head?" asked Helen. "I think it is the heart.
One feels things rather than thinks them--at least I do."

"I know you do," said her cousin. "It is your heart in the first place;
but you must not underrate your head, which certainly has something to
do with it."

Helen shook the appendage in question. "Not much," she answered. "I
have never fancied that my strong point was in my head."

"Head or heart, you are seldom wrong," said Marion, "when it comes to
a practical decision. Whereas I--you know I have been very vain of my
cleverness, and yet I am always wrong--no, don't contradict me; I mean
exactly what I say, and I have the best possible reason for meaning
it. But, Helen, let me ask one favor of you. When Mr. Singleton comes,
leave me alone with him for a few minutes. Now mind, _only_ for a few
minutes. I have something to say to him, but it will take only a little
time to say it."

"That will be easily arranged," said Helen, who would not suffer
herself even to look a question.

So when Mr. Singleton presently arrived, she spirited herself and her
mother out of the room in the most unobtrusive manner possible, leaving
the young man alone with Marion.

The latter did not waste one of the minutes for which she had asked.
She plunged without preface into the subject on which she desired
to speak. "Mr. Singleton," she began, abruptly, "I am going to say
something very unconventional; but you who are so unconventional
yourself will pardon me, I am sure. Briefly, I am going to recall to
your mind something that you said when--when we had our last private
conversation. You then declared your intention of following me abroad,
is it not so?"

"Yes," answered Singleton, with composure; "I did, and I meant what I
said. You will soon see me over there."

"I think not--I hope not," she said, quickly; "for I am sure that you
have too much self-respect to persecute a woman with attentions which
can lead to nothing. And I tell you in the most positive manner that
they can only bring you disappointment."

"You can not be sure of that," he observed, with a touch of his former
obstinancy. "Women have sometimes changed their minds."

She shook her head. "Not women who feel as I do. Listen, and I will
tell you the whole truth about myself, since there is no other way of
convincing you. I will not deny that what you offer is in some degree
a temptation to me--I am worldly enough and unworthy enough for that;
and it has been a temptation, too, to suffer you to follow me, and
keep, as it were, the chance open, in case I should find that it was
the best life offered me. But I know this would be wrong; for I cannot
deceive myself into fancying that there is any doubt whatever about my
feelings. If my heart were empty, you might in time fill it. But it is
not--I will be perfectly frank with you at any cost to myself,--another
man has long since filled it."

There was a pause after these words--words which it cost Marion very
much to utter. To acknowledge even to herself the fact which they
expressed was hard enough; but to acknowledge it to another, to this
man who sat regarding her steadily with his dark, brilliant eyes, was
harder still. But in courage, at least, she was not deficient, and her
own eyes met his without drooping.

"You see now why I can not let you follow a false hope in following
me," she continued, when after a moment he had still not spoken. "I may
be mercenary in some degree, but I am not mercenary enough to marry you
for the sake of your fortune, when I love another man. I have tried to
crush this love, and it humiliates me to acknowledge it; but I have
incurred the humiliation in order to be perfectly frank with you, and
to keep you from making a great mistake."

The last words seemed to touch him suddenly. His whole face--a face
which showed every passing emotion--changed and softened. "Believe me,"
he said, "I appreciate your frankness, and I see no humiliation in your
confession. It is good of you, however, to suffer the pain of making it
in order to save me from what you think would be a mistake."

"I _know_ that it would be a mistake--a mistake in every way," she
said, earnestly. "And I have made so many mistakes already that I
cannot add another to the list. Believe me, if you succeeded in
persuading me to marry you, it would be a mistake which we would both
regret to the end of our lives. For we do not suit each other at all.
When you marry you ought to select a woman different altogether from
what I am: a woman gentler, yet with more moral strength."

"That may be," he answered, in a meditative tone; "but, then, no other
woman can be the one to whom my father has left his fortune, who has
generously given it back to me, and with whom I should like to share
it."

"That is a feeling which I can understand, and which does you credit,"
she said. "But do you not see that I could hardly accept your suit on
such a ground as that? It would have been better to have kept your
fortune than to do that. No, Mr. Singleton: I beg you to think no more
of this; I beg you not to follow me with any such thought in your mind.
Promise me that you will not."

She leaned toward him in her earnestness, and held out her hand with a
gesture of entreaty. George Singleton had something chivalrous in his
nature, under all his brusque exterior; and taking the little hand he
raised it to his lips.

"The confidence that you have placed in me," he said, "makes it
impossible that I can do anything to annoy you. Your request is a
command. I shall not follow you."

Her eyes thanked him. "Now I can go in peace, because I shall not have
to think that I am misleading any one. However hard or lonely my path
in life may be, I want henceforth to keep my conscience clear. I have
tasted the bitterness of self-reproach, and I know what it is. Yes, you
will stay. You have duties here now, and--and I hope it will not be
long before you will find happiness."

He had no opportunity to reply, if he had been inclined to do so.
Helen, remembering Marion's urgent request that the minutes allowed for
her "few words" might be short, was heard approaching. Her clear, sweet
voice gave some orders in the hall, and then she entered the room.

"I grieve to say, Marion, that it is almost time for you to go," she
announced. "Ah, how sad parting is!"

Half an hour later, when Marion was borne away from Scarborough, her
last backward glance showed her Helen and Singleton standing side by
side on the station platform, waving her an adieu; and if she smiled at
the sight, it cannot be denied that she also sighed. With her own hand
she had closed the door of a possibly brilliant destiny; and, naturally
enough, it had never looked so bright as when she said to herself,
"That is over finally and forever."



CHAPTER XXX.


It was with little pause for sight-seeing on the way that Marion made
her journey to Rome. A few days in Paris constituted her only delay;
then, flying swiftly down through Italy--reserving until later the
pleasure of seeing the beautiful historic cities which she passed--she
did not stop again until she found herself within the walls of Rome.

And not even the fact of entering by means of a prosaic railway could
lessen the thrill with which she realized that she was indeed within
the city of the Cæsars and the Popes--the city that since the beginning
of historic time has been the chief center of the earth, the mistress
of the world, and the seat of the apostolic throne. It was strange
to feel herself in this place of memories, yet to step into a modern
railway station, resounding with noise and bustle; but even Rome was
forgotten when she found herself in Claire's arms, and Claire's sweet
voice bade her welcome.

What followed seemed like a dream--the swift drive through populous
streets, with glimpses of stately buildings and narrow, picturesque
ways; the passing under a great, sounding arch into a court, where the
soft splash of a fountain was heard as soon as the carriage stopped;
the ascent of an apparently interminable flight of stone steps, and
pausing at length on a landing, where an open door gave access to an
ante-chamber, and thence through parting curtains to a long _salon_,
where a pretty, elderly lady rose to give Marion greeting. This was
Claire's kind friend and chaperon, Mrs. Kerr, who said to herself, as
she took the young stranger's hand, "What a beautiful creature!"

Marion, on her part, was charmed, not only with Mrs. Kerr, but with
all her surroundings. The foreign aspect of everything enchanted her;
the Italian servants, the Italian dishes of the collation spread for
her, the soft sound of the language,--all entered into and made part
of her pleasure. "O Claire!" she said, when presently she was taken to
the pretty chamber prepared for her. "I think I am going to be so happy
with you--if only you are not disgusted with _me_, when you hear the
story I have to tell you!"

Claire laughed, as she bent and kissed her. "I have not the least fear
that I shall be disgusted with you," she said. "You might do wrong
things, Marion--things one would blame or censure,--but I am sure that
you will never do a mean thing, and it is mean things which disgust
one."

"Ah!" said Marion, with a sigh, "do not be too sure. I am not going
to possess your good opinion on false pretenses, so you shall hear
to-morrow all that has happened since we parted. Prepare your charity,
for I shall need it."

And, indeed, on the next day Claire heard with the utmost fullness
all that had occurred since the two parted at their convent school.
As far as the Rathborne incident was concerned, Marion did not spare
herself; and, although Claire looked grave over her self-accusation,
she was unable to express any regret that, even at the cost of Helen's
suffering, the engagement of the latter to Rathborne should have been
ended. "I saw the man only once," she said, "but that was enough to
make me distrust him thoroughly. He has a bad face--a face which shows
a narrow and cruel nature. I always trembled at the thought of Helen's
uniting her life to his. There seemed no possible prospect of happiness
for her in such a choice. So I am glad that at almost any cost the
engagement--entanglement, or whatever it was--has been ended. And I can
not see that your share in it was so very heinous."

"That is because I have not made it clear to you, then," answered
Marion. "I, too, always distrusted the man, but I liked his admiration,
his homage; it was my first taste of the power for which, you know, I
always longed. Indeed, Claire, there are no excuses to be made for me;
and if the matter ended well for Helen--as I really believe it did,--I
am still to blame for all her suffering; and you do not think that evil
is less evil because good comes of it?"

"I certainly do not think that," said Claire. "But you had no evil
intention, I am sure: you never _meant_ to hurt Helen."

"No, I did not mean to do so, but I was careless whether she suffered
or not. I thought only of myself--my own vanity, my own amusement.
Nothing can change that, and so I have always felt that it was right I
should suffer just as I made her suffer. Retribution came very quickly,
Claire."

"Did it?" asked Claire. Her soft, gray eyes were full of unspoken
sympathy. "Well, suffering is a great thing, dear; it enables us to
expiate so much! Tell me about yours--if you like."

"I feel as if I had come here just to tell you," said Marion. And
then followed the story of her engagement to Brian Earle, her anger
because he would not comply with his uncle's wishes, their parting, her
unexpected inheritance of Mr. Singleton's fortune, Rathborne's revenge
in finding the lost heir, her surrender of the fortune to him, and her
rejection of his suit.

"So here I am," she observed in conclusion, with a faint smile, "like
one who has passed through terrible storms: who has been shipwrecked
and has barely escaped with life--that is, with a fragment of
self-respect. I am so glad I had strength to give up that fortune,
Claire! You know how I always desired wealth."

"I know so well," said Claire, "that I am proud of you--proud that you
had the courage to do what must have cost you so much. But I always
told you that I knew you better than you knew yourself; and I was sure
that you would never do anything unworthy, not even to gain the end
you had so much at heart. But, Marion"--her face grew grave,--"I have
something to tell you that I fear may prove unpleasant to you. Brian
Earle is here."

"Brian Earle here!" repeated Marion. She became very pale, and for a
moment was silent. Then she said, proudly, "I hope no one will imagine
that I suspected this. I thought he was in Germany. But it will not be
necessary for me to meet him."

"That must be for you to decide," said Claire, in a somewhat troubled
tone. "He comes to see us occasionally--he is an old friend of Mrs.
Kerr's--but, if you desire it, I will ask her to let him know that it
will be best for him to discontinue his visits."

"No," said Marion, with quick, instinctive recoil; "for that would be
to acknowledge that I shrink from seeing him. If I _do_ shrink, he
shall not be made aware of it. Perhaps, when he knows that I am here,
he will desire to keep away. If not, I am--I will be strong enough to
meet him with indifference."

Claire looked at her steadily, wistfully; it seemed as if she
were trying to know all that might be known. "If you do not feel
indifference," she said, gently, after a moment, "is it well to
simulate it?"

"How can you ask such a question?" demanded Marion, with a touch of
her old haughtiness. "It is not only well--it is essential to my
self-respect. But I do not acknowledge that it will be simulation. Why
should I be other than indifferent to Brian Earle? As I confessed to
you a few minutes ago, I suffered when we parted, but that is over now."

"You care for him no longer, then?"

"Is it possible I could care for a man who has treated me as he has
done? For I still believe that it was his duty to have remained with
his uncle, and if--if he had cared for me at all he would have done so."

"But perhaps," said Claire, "he perceived that passionate desire of
yours for wealth, and thought that it would not be well for you to have
it gratified. I can imagine that."

"You imagine, then, exactly what he was good enough to say," replied
Marion, dryly. "But I suppose you know enough of me to be also able
to imagine that I was not very grateful for such a form of regard. He
talked like a moralist, but he certainly did not feel like a lover, and
so I let him go. I am not sorry for that."

"Then," said Claire, after a short pause of reflection, "I cannot see
any reason why you should avoid meeting him. There may be a little
awkwardness at first; but, if you have really no feeling for him, that
will pass away."

"I should prefer to avoid such a meeting, if possible," answered
Marion; "but if not possible, I will endure. Only, if you can, give me
warning when it is likely to occur."

"That, unfortunately, is what I can hardly do," said Claire, in a
tone of regret. "Our friends have established a habit of dropping in,
without formality, almost any evening; and so we never know who is
coming, or when."

"In that case there is, of course, nothing to be done. I can only
promise that, whenever the occasion occurs, I will try to be equal to
it."

"I have no doubt of that," answered Claire.

But she looked concerned as she went away, and it was evident to Mrs.
Kerr that she was more than usually thoughtful that evening. As she had
said, their friends in Rome found it pleasant to drop informally into
their pretty _salon_. Artists predominated among these friends; so it
was not strange that she watched the door, thinking that Brian Earle
might come, and conscious of a wish that he would; for Marion, pleading
fatigue, declined to appear on this first evening after her arrival;
and Claire said to herself that if Earle _did_ come, it would give her
an opportunity to tell him what meeting lay before him, and he could
then avoid it if he chose to do so. When, as the evening passed on, it
became at length clear that he was not coming--and there was no reason
beside her own desire for expecting him,--Claire thought, with a sigh,
that events must take their course, since it was plainly out of her
power to direct them.



CHAPTER XXXI.


And events did take their course, when, a few evenings later, Marion
suddenly saw Earle entering the _salon_, where three or four visitors
were already assembled. She herself was at the farther end of the room,
and somewhat concealed by a large Oriental screen, near which she was
seated. She was very glad of this friendly shelter when she felt her
heart leap in a manner which fairly terrified her, as, glancing up, she
saw Earle's face in the doorway. Her own emotion surprised her far more
than his appearance; she shrank farther back into the shadow to conceal
what she feared might be perceptible to others, and yet she could not
refrain from following him with her eyes.

What she saw was this--that, even while greeting Mrs. Kerr, his
glance wandered to Claire; that his first eager step was taken in her
direction; and that his face, when he took her hand, was so eloquent of
pleasure and tender admiration that it made Marion recall some words he
had spoken when they first knew each other in Scarborough. "She charmed
me," he had said then of Claire; "she is so simple, so candid, so
intent upon high aims." Every word came back with sudden distinctness,
with sudden, piercing meaning and weight, in the light of the look on
Earle's face.

"He is in love with Claire!" said Marion to herself. "Nothing could
be more natural, nothing more suitable. There is no struggle _here_
between his heart and his judgment, as was the case with me. She seems
to be made for him in every respect. Why did I not think of it sooner,
and why did not Claire tell me that he had transferred his affection to
her? Did she want me to see for myself, or did she think that I should
not see? But there is no reason why I should care--none whatever."

Even while she repeated this assurance to herself, however, the sinking
of her heart, the trembling of her hands, belied it, and frightened her
by the evidence of a feeling she had not suspected. Surely, among the
mysteries of our being, there is none greater than the existence and
growth of feelings which we not only do not encourage, but of which we
are often in absolute ignorance until some flash of illumination comes
to reveal to us their strength.

Such a flash came now to Marion. She had assured herself that she had
put Brian Earle out of her heart, and instead she suddenly found that,
during the interval in which she had condemned it to darkness and
silence, her feeling for him had increased rather than lessened. And
she was now face to face with the proof that he had forgotten her--that
he had found in Claire the true ideal of his fancy! She felt that it
was natural, she acknowledged that it was just, but the shock was
overpowering.

Fortunately, she happened at that moment to be alone--a gentleman who
had been talking to her having crossed the room to ask Mrs. Kerr a
question. Seeing him about to retrace his steps, a sudden instinct of
flight--of flight at any cost of personal dignity--seized Marion. She
felt that in another instant Claire would point her out to Earle, that
he would be forced to come and address her. Could she bear that?--was
she able to meet him as indifferently as she desired to do? Her beating
pulses told her no; and, without giving herself time to think, she
rose, lifted a _portière_ near her, and passed swiftly and silently
from the room.

Claire, meanwhile, glanced up at Earle; and she, too, met that look of
tender admiration which Marion perceived. It was not the first time
she had met it, but it was the first time that a consciousness of its
possible meaning flashed upon her. She did not color at the thought,
but grew instead suddenly pale, and glanced toward the corner of the
room where Marion at that instant had made her escape; but Claire did
not perceive this, and, with the sense of her presence, said to Earle:--

"You have probably not heard that my friend Marion Lynde is here?"

He started. "Miss Lynde _here_--in Rome!" he asked. "No, I had not
heard it. Why has she come?"

"To see and to be with me," answered Claire, calmly. "You know,
perhaps, that we are great friends."

"I have heard Miss Lynde speak of you," he said, regaining
self-possession; "and if the friendship struck me as rather a strange
one, knowing little of you as I did then, you may be sure that it
strikes me now as more than strange. I have never met two people in my
life who seemed to me to have less in common."

"Pardon me!" returned Claire. "You think so because you do not know
either of us very well. We have really a great deal in common, and I
doubt if any one in the world knows Marion as well as I do."

He looked at her with a sudden keen glance from under brows somewhat
bent. "Are you not aware that I had at one time reason to fancy that I
knew Miss Lynde quite well?" he asked.

"Yes," said Claire, with frankness; "I know. She has told me of that.
But in such a relation as the one which existed between you for a time,
people sometimes learn very little of each other. And I think that
perhaps you did not learn very much of her."

"I learned quite enough," he replied,--"all that was necessary to
convince me that I had made a great mistake. And there can be no doubt
that Miss Lynde reached the same conclusion. That, I believe, is all
that there is to say of the matter." He paused a moment, then added,
"If she is here, I hope it will not be unpleasant to her to meet me;
since I should be sorry to be banished from this _salon_, which Mrs.
Kerr and yourself make so attractive."

"There is no reason for banishment, unless you desire it," said Claire.
"Marion does not object to meeting you. But I think that there are
one or two things that you ought to know before you meet her. Are you
aware, in the first place, that she has given up your uncle's fortune?"

"No," he answered, very much startled. "Why has she done so?"

"Because Mr. Singleton's son appeared, and she thought that he should
in justice possess his father's fortune. Do you not think she was
right?"

"Right?--I suppose so. But this is very astonishing news. You are
positively certain that George Singleton, my uncle's son, is alive?"

"I am certain that Marion has told me so, and I do not suppose she is
mistaken, since she has resigned a fortune to him. People are usually
sure before they take such a step as that."

"Yes," he assented, "but it seems almost incredible. For years George
Singleton has been thought to be dead, and I was under the impression
that my uncle had positive reason for believing him so. This being the
case, there was no reason why he should not leave his fortune as he
liked, and I was glad when I heard that he had left it to Miss Lynde;
for the possession of wealth seemed to be the first desire of her
heart."

"Poor Marion!" said Claire, gently. "You might be more tolerant of
that desire if you knew all that she has suffered--suffered in a way
peculiarly hard to her--from poverty. And she has surely proved in
the most conclusive manner that, however much she desired wealth,
she was not prepared to keep it at any cost to her conscience or her
self-respect."

"Did she, then, resign _all_ the fortune?"

"Very nearly all. She said that she reluctantly retained only a few
thousand dollars."

"But is it possible that George Singleton did not insist upon
providing for her fitly? Whatever his other faults, he was not
mercenary--formerly."

"Mr. Singleton must have tried every possible argument to induce her
to keep half the fortune, but she refused to do so. I think she felt
keenly some reflections that had been thrown on her by Mr. Singleton's
relatives, and wished to disprove them."

Earle was silent for a minute. He seemed trying to adjust his mind to
these new views of Marion's character. "And you tell me that she is
here--with you?"

"I was about to say that she is in the room," Claire answered; "but I
do not see her just now. She was here a few minutes ago."

"Probably my appearance sent her away. Perhaps she would rather not
meet me."

"She assured me that she did not object to meeting you; and, unless
you give up our acquaintance, I do not see how such a meeting can be
avoided; for she has come to stay in Rome some time."

"Well," said Earle, with an air of determination, "I certainly have
no intention of giving up your acquaintance. Be sure of that. And it
would go hard with me to cease visiting here in the pleasant, familiar
fashion Mrs. Kerr and yourself have allowed me to fall into. So if Miss
Lynde does not object to meeting me, there assuredly is not the least
reason why I should object to meeting her."

Claire would have liked to ask, in her sincere, straightforward
fashion, if all his feeling for Marion was at an end; and she might
have done so but for the recollection of the look which had startled
her. She did not acknowledge to herself in so many words what that look
might mean; but it made her instinctively avoid any dangerous question,
and she was not sorry when at this point their _tête-à-tête_ was
interrupted.

But Marion did not reappear; and when Claire at length went to seek
her, she found that she had retired. Her room was in partial darkness,
so that her face could not be seen, but her voice sounded altogether as
usual when she accounted for her disappearance.

"I found that I was more tired than I had imagined by our day of
sight-seeing," she said. "I grew so stupid that flight was the only
resource. Pray make my excuses to Mr. Gardner. I vanished while he went
across the room, and I suppose he was astonished to find an empty chair
when he returned."

"Do you know that Mr. Earle entered just at the time you left?" asked
Claire, who had her suspicions about this sudden flight.

"Did he?" said Marion, in a tone of indifference. "Fortunately, it is
not necessary to make my excuses to him. There is no more reason why
he should wish to see me than why I should wish to see him. Another
time will answer as well to exchange some common-places of greeting.
Good-night, dear! Don't let me detain you longer from your friends."

"I am so sorry you are tired! Hereafter we must be more moderate in
sight-seeing," observed Claire.

As she went out of the room she said to herself that she must wait
before she could decide anything with regard to the feelings of these
two people. Was their alienation real and complete? One seemed as
cold and indifferent as the other. But did this coldness only mask
the old affection, or was it genuine? Claire had some instincts which
seldom misled her, and one of these instincts made her fear that the
indifference was more genuine with Earle than with Marion. "That would
be terrible," she said to herself: "if _he_ has forgotten and _she_ has
not. If it were only possible that they would tell the simple truth!
But that, I suppose, cannot be expected. If I knew it, I would know how
to act; but as it is I can only wait and observe. I believe, however,
that Marion left the room because he appeared; and if his presence has
such an effect on her, she certainly cares for him yet."

Marion was already writhing under the thought that this very conclusion
would be drawn--perhaps by Earle himself,--and determining that she
would never again be betrayed into such weakness. "It was the shock of
surprise," she said in self-extenuation. "I was not expecting anything
of _that_ kind, and it naturally startled me. I know it now, and it
will have no such effect a second time. I suppose I might have looked
for it if I had not been so self-absorbed. Certainly it is not only
natural, but very suitable. They seem made for each other; and I--I do
hope they may be happy. But I must go away as soon as I can. That is
necessary."

It was several days after this that the meeting between herself and
Earle took place. She had been with Claire for some hours in the
galleries of the Vatican, and finally before leaving they entered the
beautiful Raphael Loggia--that lovely spot filled with light and color,
where the most exquisite creations of the king of painters glow with
immortal sunshine from the walls. As they entered and paced slowly down
its length, a figure was advancing from the other end of the luminous
vista toward them. Marion recognized this figure before Claire did,
and so had a moment in which to take firm hold of her self-possession
before the latter, turning to her quickly, said, "Yonder comes Mr.
Earle."

"So I perceive," replied Marion, quietly. "He has not changed
sufficiently to make an introduction necessary."

The next moment they had met, were shaking hands, and exchanging
greetings. Of the two Marion preserved her composure best. Earle was
surprised by his own emotion when he saw again the face that once had
power to move him so deeply. He had said to himself that its power was
over, that he was cured in the fullest sense of that which he looked
back upon as brief infatuation; but now that he found himself again in
Marion's presence, a thrill of the old emotion seemed to stir, and for
a moment rendered him hardly able to speak.

Conventionalities are powerful things, however, and the emotion must be
very strong that is not successfully held in check by them. Claire went
on speaking in her gentle voice, giving the others time to recover any
self-possession which they might have lost.

"We just came for a turn in this beautiful place before going home,"
she said to Earle. "They are my delight, these _loggia_ of the Vatican.
All the sunshine and charm of Italy seem to meet in the divine
loveliness of the frescos within, and the beauty of the classic gardens
without. A Papal audience is never so picturesque, I am sure, as when
it is held in one of these noble galleries."

Earle assented rather absently; then saying, "If you are about to go
home, I will see you to your carriage," turned and joined them. It was
a singular sensation to find himself walking again by Marion's side;
and the recollection of their last parting returned so vividly to his
mind that when he spoke he could only say, "My poor uncle's life was
much, shorter than I imagined it would be, Miss Lynde."

"Yes," replied Marion, quietly. "His death was a great surprise to
everyone. I am sure you did not think when you parted from him that his
life would be numbered only by weeks."

"I certainly did not think so," he answered, with emphasis. Then he
paused and hesitated. Conversation seemed hedged with more difficulties
than he had anticipated. His parting with his uncle had been so closely
connected with his parting from Marion, that he found it a subject
impossible to pursue. He dropped it abruptly, therefore, and remarked:
"I was greatly surprised to learn from Miss Alford that my cousin
George Singleton is alive, and has returned from the wild regions in
which he buried himself."

This was a better opening. Marion replied that Mr. Singleton's
appearance had astonished everyone concerned, but that his identity was
fully established. "Indeed," she added, "I do not think there was a
doubt in the mind of any one after he made his personal appearance."

"And you gave up your fortune to him?" said Earle, with a sudden keen
glance at her.

She colored. "I did not feel that it was _my_ fortune," she answered,
"but rather his. Surely his father must have believed him dead, else he
would never have made such a disposition of his property."

"That was my impression--that he believed him dead. But it is difficult
to speak with certainty about a man so peculiar and so reticent as my
uncle. You will, perhaps, pardon me for saying that, since he had left
you his fortune, I do not think you were bound to resign it all."

"I suppose," said Marion, somewhat coldly, "that I was not bound to
resign any of it: I had, no doubt, a legal right to keep whatever the
law did not take from me. But I am not so mercenary as you believe. I
could not keep what I did not believe to be rightfully mine."

Despite pride, her voice trembled a little over the last words; and
Earle was immediately filled with self-reproach to think that he had
wounded her.

"So far from believing you mercenary," he said gravely, "I think that
you have acted with extraordinary generosity,--a generosity carried,
indeed, beyond prudence. Forgive me for alluding to the subject. I only
regret that my uncle's intentions toward you have been so entirely
frustrated."

"I have the recollection of his great kindness," she said, hurriedly.
"I know that he desired to help me, therefore I felt it right to keep
something. I did not leave myself penniless."

"You would have been wrong if you had done so," remarked Earle; "but
it would have been better still if you had kept a fair amount of the
fortune."

"Oh, no!" she replied; "for I had no claim to any of it--no claim, I
mean, of relationship. I was a stranger to your uncle, and I only kept
such an amount as it seemed to me a kind-hearted man might give to a
stranger who had wakened his interest. Mr. George Singleton was very
kind, too. He wished me to keep more, but I would not."

"I understand how you felt," said Earle; "and I fear I should have
acted in the same manner myself, so I really cannot blame you. I only
think it a pity."

The gentleness and respect of his tone touched and pleased her. She
felt that it implied more approval and sympathy than he liked to
express. Unconsciously her eyes thanked him; and when they parted a
little later in one of the courts of the Vatican, each felt that the
awkwardness of meeting was over, and that there was no reason why they
should shrink from meeting again.

"I have wronged her," said Earle to himself as he strolled away. "She
is not the absolutely mercenary and heartless creature I had come to
believe her. I might have known that I was wrong, or Miss Alford would
not make a friend of her. Whoever _she_ likes must be worthy of being
liked."



CHAPTER XXXII.


It was soon apparent to Marion that Claire's talent was as fully
recognized by the artists who made her circle now, as it had been by
the nuns in the quiet convent she had left. They praised her work, they
asked her judgment upon their own, and they prophesied a great future
for her--a future of the highest distinction and the most solid rewards.

"I knew how it would be, Claire," Marion said one day, as she sat in
the studio of the young artist watching her at work. "I always knew
that _you_ would succeed, whoever else failed. Do you remember our last
conversation together--you and Helen and I--the evening before we left
school, when we told one another what we desired most in life? _I_ said
money; well, I have had it, and was forced to choose between giving it
up or giving up my self-respect. I have found out already that there
are worse things than to be poor. Helen said happiness--poor, dear
Helen! and the happiness of which she was thinking slipped out of her
fingers like a vapor. But you, Claire,--_you_ chose something worthy:
you chose success in art, and God has given it to you."

"Yes," observed Claire, meditatively, "I have had some success; I feel
within myself the power to do good work, and my power is recognized by
those whose praise is of value. I feel that my future is assured--that
I can make money enough for all my needs, and also the fame which it
is natural for every artist to desire. But, Marion, do you know that
with this realization has come a great sense of its unsatisfactoriness?
There are days in which I lay down my brushes and say to myself '_Cui
bono?_' as wearily as the most world-weary man."

"Claire, it is impossible!"

Claire smiled a little sadly as she went on mixing her colors. "It is
very possible and very true," she said. "And I suppose the moral of it
is that there is no real satisfaction in the possession of any earthly
ideal. We desire it, we work for it, and when we get it we find that it
has no power to make us happy. We three, each of us in different ways,
found that out, Marion."

"But there was no similarity in the ways," replied Marion. "Mine was an
unworthy ideal, and Helen's a foolish one; but yours was all that it
ought to be, and it seems to me that you should be perfectly happy in
the attainment of it."

"And so I am happy," said Claire. "Do not mistake me. I am happy,
and very grateful to God; but I cannot pretend to a satisfaction in
the attainment of my wishes which I do not find. There is something
lacking. Though I love art, it does not fill the needs of my nature. I
want something more--something which I do not possess--as an object, an
incentive--"

She broke off abruptly, and Marion was silent for a moment from sheer
astonishment. That Claire should feel in this way--Claire so calm,
so self-contained, so devoted to her art, so ambitious of success in
it--amazed her beyond the power of expression, until suddenly a light
dawned upon her and she seemed to see what it meant. It meant--it
_must_ mean--that Claire in her loneliness felt the need of love, and
the ties that love creates. Friends were all very well, but friends
could not satisfy the heart in the fullest sense; neither could the
pleasure of painting pictures, nor the praise of critics, however warm.
Yes, Claire desired love--that was plain; and love was at hand for her
to take--love that Marion had thrown away.

"It is just and right," said the latter to herself. "I have nothing to
complain of--nothing! And she must not think that I will regret it. I
must find a way to make her understand this." After a minute she spoke
aloud: "Certainly you have surprised me, Claire; for I did think that
_you_ were happy. But I suppose the moral is, as you say, that the
attainment of no object which we set before ourselves is able to render
us thoroughly satisfied. But your pictures are so beautiful that it
must be a pleasure to paint them."

"Genius is too great a word to apply to me," remarked Claire, quietly.
"But it _is_ a pleasure to paint; I should be ungrateful beyond measure
if I denied that. I have much happiness in it, and I am more than
content with the success God has granted me. I only meant to say that
it has not the power to satisfy me completely. But that, I suppose,
nothing of a purely earthly nature can have."

"Do you think not?" asked Marion, rather wistfully. This is "a hard
saying" for youth to believe, even after experience has somewhat taught
its truth. Indeed the belief that there may be lasting good in some
earthly ideal, eagerly sought, eagerly desired, does not end with
youth. Men and women pursue such delusions to the very end of life,
and lie down at last in the arms of death without having ever known
any lasting happiness, or lifted their eyes to the one Ideal which can
alone satisfy the yearning of their poor human hearts.

This glimpse of Claire's inmost feeling was not forgotten by Marion. It
seemed to her that it made matters plain, and she had now no doubt how
the affair would end as regarded Earle. She said again to herself, "I
must go away;" but she knew that to go immediately would be to betray
herself, and this she passionately desired not to do. Therefore she did
what was the next best thing--she avoided Earle as much as possible,
so markedly indeed that it would have been impossible for him to force
himself upon her even if he had desired to do so. She persevered in
this line of conduct so resolutely that Claire began to think that
some conclusions she had drawn at first were a mistake, and that the
alienation between these two was indeed final.

But Marion's success cost her dearly. It was a severe discipline
through which she was passing--a discipline which tried every power of
her nature, in which there was a constant struggle to subdue everything
that was most dominant within her. Passion that had grown stronger
with time, selfishness that demanded what it desired, vanity that
smarted under forgetfulness, and pride that longed to assert itself in
power,--all of these struggled against the resolution which kept them
down. But the resolution did not fail. "After having thrown away my
own happiness by my own fault, I will die before I sacrifice Claire's,"
she determined. But it was a hard battle to fight alone; and, had she
relied solely upon her own strength, might never have been fought at
all, or at least would have ended very soon. But Rome is still Rome,
in that it offers on every side such spiritual aids and comforts as no
other spot of earth affords.

If Marion had begun to find mysterious peace in the bare little chapel
of Scarborough, was she less likely to find it here in these ancient
sanctuaries of faith, these great basilicas that in their grandeur
dwarf all other temples of earth,--that in their beauty are like
glimpses of the heavenly courts, and in their solemn holiness lay on
the spirit a spell that language can but faintly express? It was not
long before this spell came upon her like a fascination. When the heavy
curtains swung behind her, and she passed from the sunlight of the
streets into the cool dimness of some vast church; when through lines
of glistening marble columns--columns quarried for pagan temples by the
captives of ancient Rome--she passed to chapels rich with every charm
of art and gift of wealth,--to sculptured altars where for long ages
the Divine Victim had been offered, and the unceasing incense of prayer
ascended,--she felt as if she asked only to remain and steep her weary
heart and soul in the ineffable repose which she found there.

She expressed something of this one day to Claire, when they passed out
of Santa Maria Maggiore into the light of common day; and Claire looked
at her, with a smile in her deep grey eyes.

"Yes," she said, in her usual quiet tone, "I know that feeling very
well. But it is not possible to have only the comfort of religion: we
must taste also the struggle and the sacrifice it demands. We must
leave the peace of the sanctuary to fight our appointed battle in the
world, or else we must make one great sacrifice and leave the world
to find our home and work in the sanctuary. I do not think that will
ever be your vocation, Marion, so you must be content with carrying
some of the peace of the sanctuary back with you into the world. Only,
my dear"--her voice sank a little,--"I think if you would take one
decisive step, you would find that peace more real and enduring."

"I know what you mean," answered Marion, thoughtfully. "I cannot tell
why I have delayed so long. I certainly believe whatever the Catholic
Church teaches, because I am sure that if she has not the truth in
her possession, it is not on earth. I am willing to do whatever she
commands, but I am not devotional, Claire. I cannot pretend to be."

"There is no need to pretend," returned Claire, gently; "nor yet to
torment yourself about your deficiency in that respect. Yours is not
a devotional nature, Marion; but all the more will your service be of
value, because you will offer it not to please yourself, but to obey
and honor God. Do not fear on that account, but come let me take you to
my good friend, Monsignor R----."

"Take me where you will," said Marion. "If I can only retain and make
my own the peace that I sometimes feel in your churches, I will do
anything that can be required of me."

"I do not think you will find that anything hard will be required of
you," observed Claire, with a smile that was almost angelic in its
sweetness and delight.

And truly Marion found, as myriads have found before her, that no
path was ever made easier, more like the guiding of a mother's hand,
than that which led her into the Church of God. So gentle were the
sacramental steps, and each so full of strange, mysterious sweetness,
that this period ever after seemed like a sanctuary in her life--a spot
set apart and sacred, as hallowed with the presence of the Lord. She
had willingly followed the suggestion of the good priest, and gone into
a convent for a few days before her reception into the Church. This
reception took place in the lovely convent chapel, where, surrounded
by the nuns, with only Claire and Mrs. Kerr present from the outer
world, it seemed to Marion as if time had indeed rolled back, and she
was again at the beginning of life. But what a different beginning!
Looking at the selfish and worldly spirit with which she had faced the
world before, she could only thank God with wondering gratitude for the
lesson He had taught so soon, and the rescue He had inspired.

When she found herself again in Claire's _salon_, with a strange
sense of having been far away for a great length of time, one of the
first people to congratulate her on the step she had taken was Brian
Earle. He was astonished when Claire told him where Marion had gone,
and he was more astonished now at the look on her face as she turned
it to him. Although he could not define it, there was a withdrawal,
an aloofness in that face which he had never seen there before. Nor
was this an imagination on his part. Marion felt, with a sense of
infinite relief, that she _had_ been withdrawn from the influence he
unconsciously exerted upon her; that it was no longer painful to her
to see him; that the higher feeling in which she had been absorbed
had taken the sting out of the purely natural sentiment that had been
a trouble to her. She felt a resignation to things as they were,
for which she had vainly struggled before; and, even while she was
withdrawn from Earle, felt a quietness so great that it amounted to
pleasure in speaking to him.

"Yes," she said, in answer to his congratulation, "I have certainly
proved that all roads lead to Rome. No road could have seemed less
likely to lead to Rome than the one I set out on; but here I am--safe
in the spiritual city. It is a wonder to me even yet."

"It is not so great a wonder to me," he replied. "I thought even in
Scarborough that you were very near it."

She colored. The allusion to Scarborough made her realize how and why
she had been near it then, but she recovered herself quickly. "In a
certain sense I was always near it," she said, quietly. "I never for a
moment believed that any religion was true except the Catholic. But no
one knows better than I do now what a wide difference there is between
believing intellectually and acting practically. The grace of God is
absolutely necessary for the latter, and why He should have given that
grace to _me_ I do not know."

"It is difficult to tell why He should have given it to any of us,"
observed Earle, touched and surprised more and more. Was this indeed
the girl who had once seemed to him so worldly and so mercenary? He
could hardly credit the transformation that had taken place in her.

"I have never seen any one so changed as Miss Lynde," he said later to
Claire. "One can believe any change possible after seeing her."

Claire smiled. "You will perhaps believe now that you only knew her
superficially before," she replied. "There is certainly a change--a
great change--in her. But the possibility of the change was always
there."



CHAPTER XXXIII.


Soon after this Claire said to herself that if these two people were
ever to be brought together again it could only be by her exertions.
Left to themselves, it became more and more evident that such an event
would never occur. And Claire had fully arrived at the conclusion that
it would be the best thing which could occur; for she had no doubt of
the genuineness of Marion's regard for Earle; and, while she recognized
the attraction which she herself possessed for the latter, she believed
that, underlying this, his love for Marion existed still.

"But, whether it does or not, his fancy for _me_ can come to nothing,"
she thought; "and the sooner he knows it, the better. I should be glad
if he could know it at once. If such a thing must be stopped, there
should be no delay in the matter."

It was certainly no fault of Claire's that there was any delay. Earle's
manner to herself rendered her so nervous, especially when Marion was
present to witness it, that she could hardly control her inclination to
take matters in her own hand, and utter some words which it would be
contrary to all precedent for a woman to utter until she has been asked
for them. But her eagerness to make herself understood at last gave
her the opportunity she so much desired.

One evening Earle inquired about a picture on which she was engaged,
and of which he had seen the beginning in an open-air Campagna sketch.
She replied that she was not succeeding with it as she had hoped to do;
and when he asked if he might not be permitted to see it, she readily
assented.

"For, you know, one is not always the best judge of one's own work,"
he remarked. "You may be discouraged without reason. I will give you a
candid opinion as to the measure of your success."

"If you will promise an altogether candid opinion, you may come," she
answered; "for you were present when I made the sketch, and so you can
tell better than any one else if I have succeeded in any measure at
all."

"To-morrow, then," he said,--"may I come to-morrow, and at what hour?"

Claire hesitated for a moment, and then named an hour late in the
afternoon. "I shall not be at leisure before then," she said.

She did not add what was in her thoughts--that at this hour she might
see him alone, since Mrs. Kerr and Marion generally went out at that
time to drive. It was, she knew, contrary to foreign custom for her to
receive him in such a manner; but, strong in the integrity of her own
purpose, she felt that foreign customs concerned her very little.

The next day, therefore, when Earle arrived, he was informed that the
ladies were out, except Miss Alford, who was in her studio, and would
receive him there. A little surprised but very much pleased by this,
he followed the servant to the room which Claire used as a studio when
she was not studying in the galleries or in the studio of the artist
who was her master.

It was a small apartment, altogether devoted to work, and without any
of the decorations which make many studios show-rooms for bric-a-brac
rather than places for labor. Here the easel was the chief article of
furniture, and there was little else beside tables for paints and a
few chairs. All was scrupulously clean, fresh and airy, however; and,
with Claire's graceful figure in the midst, it seemed to Earle, as he
entered, a very shrine of art--art in the noble simplicity which suits
it best.

Claire, with her palette on her hand, was standing before the easel.
She greeted him with a smile, and bade him come where he could command
a good view of the painting. "Now be quite candid," she said; "for you
know I do not care for compliments."

"And I hope you know that I never pay them--to you," he answered, as he
obeyed her and stepped in front of the canvas.

It was a charming picture, a typical Campagna scene--a ruined mediæval
fortress, in the lower story of which peasants had made their home,
and round the door of which children were playing; a group of cattle
drinking at a flag-grown pool; and, stretching far and wide, the solemn
beauty of the great plain. The details were treated with great artistic
skill, and the sentiment of the picture expressed admirably the wild,
poetic desolation of this earth, "_fatiguée de gloire, qui semble
dédaigner de produire_."

"You have succeeded wonderfully," said Earle, after a pause of some
length. "How can you doubt it? Honestly, I did not expect to see
anything half so beautiful. How admirably you have expressed the spirit
of the Campagna!"

"Do you really think so?" asked Claire, coloring with pleasure. "Or,
rather, I know that you would not say so if you did not think so, and
therefore I am delighted to hear it. I wanted so much to express that
spirit. It is what chiefly impresses me whenever I see the Campagna,
and it is so impossible to put it in words."

"You have put it here," said Earle, with a gesture toward the canvas.
"Never again doubt your ability to express anything that you like. You
will be a great painter some day, Miss Alford; are you aware of that?"

She shook her head, and the flush of pleasure faded from her face as
she turned her grave, gentle eyes to him. "No," she answered, quietly,
"I do not think I shall ever be a great painter; and I will tell you
why: it is because I do not think that art is my vocation--at least,
not my _first_ vocation."

"Not your first vocation to be an artist?" he said, in a tone of the
greatest astonishment. "How can you think such a thing with the proof
of your power before your eyes? Why, to doubt that you are an artist in
every fibre of your being is equivalent to doubting that you exist."

"Not quite," she answered, smiling. "But indeed I do not doubt that I
am an artist, and I used to believe that if I really could become one,
and be successful in the exercise of art, I should be perfectly happy.
Now I have already succeeded beyond my hopes. I cannot doubt but that
those who tell me, as you have just done, that I may be a painter in
the truest sense if I continue to work, are right. And yet I repeat
with the utmost seriousness that I do not think it is my vocation to
remain in the world and devote myself to art."

Earle looked startled as a sudden glimpse of her meaning came to his
mind. "What, then," he said, "do you believe to be your vocation?"

Claire looked away from him. She did not wish to see how hard the blow
she must deliver would strike.

"I believe," she said, quietly, "that it is my vocation to enter the
religious life. God has given me what I desired most in the world, but
it does not satisfy me. My heart was left behind in the cloister, and
day by day the desire grows upon me more strongly to return there."

"But you will not!" said Earle, almost violently. "It is impossible--it
would be a sacrifice such as God never demands! Why should He have
given you such great talent if He wished you to bury it in a cloister?"

"Perhaps that I might have something to offer to Him," answered Claire.
"Otherwise I should have nothing, you know. But there can be no
question of sacrifice when one is following the strongest inclination
of one's heart."

"You do not know your own heart yet," said Earle. "You are following
its first inclination without testing it. How could the peace and charm
of the cloister fail to attract you--you who seem made for it? But--"

Claire's lifted hand stayed his words. "See," she said, "how you bear
testimony to what I have declared. If I 'seem made' for the cloister,
what can that mean save that my place is there?"

"Then is there no place for pure and good and lovely people in the
world?" asked Earle, conscious that his tongue had indeed betrayed him.

"Oh, yes!" she answered; "there are not only places, but there are also
many duties for such people; and numbers of them are to be met on all
sides. But there are also some souls whom God calls to serve Him in the
silence and retirement of the cloister, who pine like homesick exiles
in the world. Believe me I am one of those souls. I shrank from leaving
the convent where I had been educated, to go out into the world; but I
knew what everyone would say: that I was following a fancy--an untried
fancy--if I stayed. So I went; and, as if to test me, everything
that I desired has been given me, and given without the delays and
disappointments that others have had to endure. The world has shown me
only its fairest side, yet the call to something better and higher has
daily grown stronger within me, until I have no longer any doubt but
that it is God's will that I shall go."

Earle threw himself into a chair, and sat for a minute silent, like one
stunned. He felt as if he had heard a death-warrant read--as if he was
not only to be robbed individually, but the world was to be robbed of
this lovely creature with her brilliant gift.

"What am I to say to you?" he cried at length, in a half-stifled voice.
"This seems to me too horrible for belief. It is like suicide--the
suicide of the faculties, the genius that God has given you,--of all
the capabilities of your nature to enjoy,--of all the beauty, the
happiness of life--"

He paused, for Claire was regarding him with a look of amazement and
reproach. "You call yourself a Catholic," she said, "and yet you can
speak in this way of a religious vocation!"

"I do not speak of religious vocations in general," he answered. "I
only speak of yours. There are plenty of people who have nothing
special to do in the world. Let _them_ go to the cloister. But for
you--you with your wonderful talent, your bright future--it is too
terrible an idea to be entertained."

"Do you know," she said gravely, "that you not only shock, you
disappoint me greatly? How can you be a Catholic and entertain such
sentiments?--how can you think that only the useless, the worn-out, the
disappointed people of this world are for God? I have been told that
Protestants think such things as that, but they are surely strange for
a Catholic to believe."

"I do not believe them," he said; "I am sure you know that. But when
one is awfully shocked, one does not measure one's words. You do not
realize how close this comes to me--how terrible the disappointment--"

She cut him short ruthlessly. "I realize," she said, with a sweet
smile, "that you are very kind to have such a good opinion of me--to
believe that the world will really sustain any loss when such an
insignificant person as I leave it for the cloister."

"Insignificant!" he repeated, with something like a groan. "How
little you know of yourself to think that! But tell me, is your mind
unalterably made up to this step?--could _nothing_ induce you to change
it?"

Her eyes met his, steady and calm as stars. "Nothing," she answered,
firmly but gently. "When God says, 'Come,' one must arise and go. There
is no alternative. As a preparation, He fills one with such a distaste
for the world, such a sense of the brevity and unsatisfactoriness of
all earthly things, that they no longer have any power to attract."

"Not even human love?" he asked, almost in a whisper.

She shook her head. "Not when weighed against divine love," she
answered.

In that answer everything was said, and a silence fell, in which Claire
seemed to hear the beating of her heart. Would he be satisfied with
this and go away without forcing her to be more explicit, or would he
persist in laying on her one of the most painful necessities which can
be laid upon a woman? As she waited with anxiety for the solution of
this question, Earle was having something of a struggle with himself.
The impulse was strong with him to declare unreservedly what he felt
and what he had ventured to hope; but an instinct told him not only
that it would be useless, but that he would inflict needless pain upon
Claire, and mar their friendship by a memory of words that could serve
no possible purpose. He knew that she understood him; he recognized the
motive which had made her speak to him of a purpose that he felt sure
had been spoken of to no other among her associates and friends; and he
was strong enough to say to himself that he would keep silence--that
she should know no more than she had already guessed of the pain which
it cost him to hear her resolution.

When he presently looked at her, it was with a face pale with feeling,
but calm with the power of self-control. "Such a choice," he said, "it
is not for me or for any other man to combat. I only venture to beg you
not to act hastily. It would be terrible to take such a step and regret
it."

Claire smiled almost as a cloistered nun might smile at such words. "Do
you think that one ever takes such a step hastily? No: there is a long
probation before me; and if I have spoken to you somewhat prematurely,
it was only because I thought I should like you to know--"

"I understand," he said, as she hesitated. "It is well that I should
know. Do not think that I am so dull as to mistake you in the least. I
am honored by your confidence, and I shall remember it and you as long
as I live. Now"--he rose--"I must bid you good-bye. I think of leaving
Rome for a time. I have a friend in Naples who is urging me to join him
in a journey to the East. Can I do anything for you in the Holy Land?"

"You can pray for me," said Claire; "and believe that wherever I may be
I shall always pray for you."

"What better covenant could be made?" he asked, with a faint smile. And
then, in order to preserve his composure, he took her hand, kissed it,
and went hastily away.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


And so for Earle those Roman days ended, with the brief dream which he
had indulged of finding in Claire's heart a response for the feeling
that had arisen in his own. Yet no disappointment can be very keen
when hope has not been very great, and Earle was well aware that he
had never possessed any ground for hope. Kind and gentle as Claire had
been, he was always conscious of something about her which seemed to
set her at a remote distance,--an indefinable manner which had made
him once call her "a vestal of art." He understood this now, but he
had felt it before he understood it, and so the blow was not as heavy
as it might have been if this underlying instinct had not existed. A
vestal!--the expression had been well chosen; for there was indeed
a vestal-like quality about her,--a vestal-like charm, which seemed
to inspire thoughts of cloisteral tranquillity, and keep the fires
of human passion at bay. This exquisite quality had been her chief
attraction to Earle: its very unlikeness to the nature which had
fascinated him, and from which he had recoiled, making its charm the
greater; but even while it attracted, he had felt that it removed her
from him and made hope wear the guise of presumption.

Now all hope was finally at an end; and, since it is in human nature to
resign itself to the inevitable, the wound might be said to carry its
own cure. Earle was aware of this, and he left Rome in no melodramatic
spirit whatever; but feeling it best to go, in order to recover
that calm and healthy control of himself and his own feelings which
had been lacking with him since he first met Marion in Scarborough.
As we know that nature abhors a vacuum, it is probable that his
attachment to Claire arose partly from the disappointment of that prior
attachment--from the need of the heart to put another object in the
place of that which had been dethroned; but, leaving all analysis of
the kind for the future, he quietly accepted the pain of the present
and went away.

Marion had not the least doubt of the reason of his going, although
no word fell from Claire on the subject. She said to herself that she
was sorry--that she had hoped to know that Claire and himself were
happy together, since they suited each other so well; but, although she
was sincere in thinking this, there could be no doubt that, despite
herself, she felt his departure to be a relief--that it relaxed a
strain in which she held herself,--and that if a blank followed, a
sense of peace, of release from painful conflict, also came. "I suffer
through my own fault," she reflected; "therefore it is quite right that
I should suffer." And such acceptance robbed the suffering of half its
sting.

Two or three tranquil months followed--months during which the
influences that surrounded her sank deep into Marion, and seemed to be
moulding over again the passionate, impulsive nature. Claire was one
of the foremost of these influences, as Marion herself was well aware;
and more than once she thought that she would be content if she might
spend her life near the friend who had always seemed to her the voice
of her better self. She had begun to study art--having a very fair
talent,--and one day as she sat working at a study she said to Claire,
who was painting busily on the other side of the room:--

"If I can ever grow to be anything of an artist, what a pleasure it
will be for us to live and work together! I cannot think of anything I
should prefer to that."

Claire smiled a little. "Nevertheless," she said, "there may be
something that you will prefer as time goes on, although our
association is very pleasant--as pleasant to me as to you."

"Is there anything that _you_ would prefer?" asked Marion; for
something in the tone of the other struck her with surprise.

Claire did not answer for a moment. Then she said, quietly: "Yes. I
must be frank with you. There is something I should prefer even to your
companionship, even to art. I should prefer to go back to the convent
that I have never ceased to regret."

Marion's brush dropped from her hand. She was astonished beyond
measure, for it was the first intimation she had received of such a
feeling on Claire's part. "Go back to the convent," she cried, "and
give up you art!--Claire, are you mad?"

"Very sane, my dear," answered Claire, smiling. "I have disliked to
tell you about it, because I knew you would be sorry. I am sorry, too,
that it should be necessary for us to part; but I grow daily more
certain that my vocation lies not in the world but in the cloister."

"I am more than sorry--I am shocked!" said Marion. "With your
talent!--why, all the artists whom we know say that your future is
certain to be a brilliant one. And to bury that in a cloister!--Claire,
it should not be allowed!"

Claire remembered what other voice had said this, almost in the same
words; but she was no more moved by it now than she had been then.

"Who should prevent it?" she asked. "If you, for instance, had the
power, would you venture to prevent it--to say that any soul should
serve the world instead of serving God?"

"That is not a fair way to put it. Cannot people serve God in the world
as well as in the cloister?"

"Surely yes, if it is their vocation to do so. But if one has a
vocation for the religious life--if that imperative call is heard,
which cannot be realized except by those who hear it, bidding one arise
and go forth,--then one _cannot_ serve God as well in the world as in
the cloister."

"But, Claire, may you not imagine this call? I cannot believe that God
would have given you such a talent if He had not meant you to make the
most of it. Think how much good you might do if you remained in the
world--how much money you might make, as well as how much fame you
might win!"

"My dear," said Claire, with gentle solemnity, "how much will either
money or fame weigh in the scales of eternity? I want to work for
eternity rather than for time; and I am, happily, free to do so--to go
back to the cloister, where I left my heart. Do not make it painful
for me. Try to reconcile yourself to it, and to believe that God makes
no mistakes."

"I cannot be reconciled," said Marion. "It is not only that I cannot
bear to give you up--that I cannot bear for you to resign the success
of which I have been proud in anticipation,--but I am selfish, too. I
think of my own life. You are my one anchor in the world, and I have
been happy in the thought of our living together, of our--"

Her voice broke down in tears. It was indeed a blow which fell more
heavily than Claire had reckoned on. Feeling assured herself what would
be the end for Marion, she overlooked the fact that Marion herself had
no such assurance. In her disappointment and her friendlessness she
had come to Claire as to a secure refuge, and lo! that refuge was now
about to fail her. Emotion overpowered her--the strong emotion of a
nature which rarely yields to it,--and for some minutes she was hardly
conscious that Claire's tender arms were around her, and Claire's
tender voice was bidding her take comfort and courage.

"I am not going to leave you immediately, nor even soon," that voice
said; "and I should certainly not leave you, under any circumstances,
until I saw you well placed and happy. Dear Marion, do not distress
yourself. Let us leave things in God's hands. He will show us what is
best."

"I am a wretch to distress _you_," said Marion, struggling with her
tears. "But you must not believe me more selfish than I am. Do you
think I should only miss you as a convenience of my life? No, it is
_you_, Claire--your influence, yourself--that I shall miss beyond all
measure. No one in the world can take your place with me--no one!"

"But there may be a place as good for some one else to take," said
Claire. "Do not fear: the path will open before you. If we trust God
He will certainly show us what to do. Trust Him, Marion, and try to be
reconciled, will you not?"

"I will try," Marion answered; "but I fear that I never can be. You see
now, Claire, how strong a hold the world has on me. If I were good, if
I were spiritual-minded, I should be glad for you to do this thing; but
as it is, my whole feeling is one of vehement opposition."

"That will not last," said Claire. "I have seen it often, even in
people whom you would have called very spiritual-minded; but it ended
in the belief that whatever God wills is best. You will feel that, too,
before long."

Marion shook her head sadly, but she would not pain Claire by further
words. She felt that her resolution was immovable, however long it
might be before it was executed. "So there is nothing for me but to try
to resign myself," she thought. "I wish it were _my_ vocation that I
might go with her; for everything that I care for seems to slip from my
grasp."

Apart from resigning herself in feeling, there was also a practical
side of the question which she was well aware must be considered. Where
was she to go, with whom was she to live when Claire had left her, and,
like a weary dove, flown back to cloister shades? She considered this
question anxiously; and she had not arrived at any definite conclusion,
when one day a letter came which made her utter a cry of surprise and
pleasure.

"This is from Helen," she said, meeting Claire's glance; "and what I
hoped and expected has come to pass--she has promised to marry Mr.
Singleton."

"Helen!" exclaimed Claire, in a tone of incredulity. "Why, I thought he
wanted to marry you."

Marion laughed. "That was a mistake on his part," she said, "which
fortunately did not impose upon me. Perhaps he was a little in
love--the circumstances favored such a delusion,--but I am sure his
ruling motive for asking me to marry him was to give me that share of
the fortune which he could not induce me to take in any other way. I
really did not suit him at all. I saw before I left that Helen _did_
suit him, and I hoped for just what has come to pass. O Claire, you
don't know how happy it makes me! For I feel now as if I had in a
measure atoned to Helen for the pain I caused her about that wretched
Rathborne."

"How?" asked Claire, smiling. "By making over Mr. Singleton and his
fortune to her? But I am afraid you can scarcely credit yourself with
having done that."

"Only indirectly, but it is certain that if I had accepted him he could
not be engaged to her now. I am so glad--so very glad! He is really a
good fellow, and Helen will be able to do a great deal with him."

"Is he a Catholic?"

"She says that he has just been received into the Church. But here is
the letter. Read it for yourself. I think she is very happy."

Claire read the letter with interest, and when she had finished,
returned it, saying, "Yes, I think she is certainly very happy.
Dear Helen! how we always said that she was made for happiness! And
now God seems to have given it to her in the form of great worldly
prosperity--the very prosperity that _you_ lost. Are not His ways
strange to us?"

"This is not at all strange to me," replied Marion. "What I lost would
have ruined me; what Helen has gained will have no effect upon her,
except to make her more kind and more charitable. She is one of the
people whom prosperity cannot harm. Therefore it is given her in full
measure. But it certainly would have been singular if I could have
foreseen that after I had gained my fortune it would pass into Helen's
hands, and that by a simple process of retribution. For if matters had
remained as they were between Rathborne and herself, there could have
been no question of this. And they would have so remained but for me."

"You should be very grateful," said Claire, "that you have been allowed
to atone so fully for a fault that you might have had to regret always.
_Now_ it can be forgotten. Helen says she will be married in April,
does she not?"

Marion turned to the letter. "Yes, in April--just after Easter. Claire,
let us beg her to come abroad for her wedding journey, and join us?"

"With all my heart," said Claire. "They can come here for a little
time, and then we can go with them to Switzerland, or the Italian
lakes, or wherever they wish to go for the summer. It will be pleasant
for us to be together once more--for the last time."

"Claire, you break my heart when you talk so!"

"Oh! no," said Claire, gently, "I am very sure that I do not break your
heart; and if I sadden you a little, that is necessary; but it will not
last long. There is no need to think of it now, however; only think
that you and Helen and I will pass a few happy days together--for I
suppose Mr. Singleton will not be much of a drawback--before we start
on another and a different beginning of life from that on which we
entered when we left our dear convent."



EPILOGUE.


A year from the summer day when three girls had stood together on the
eve of parting in their convent school-room, the same three were seated
together on the shores of the Lago di Como. The garden of the hotel in
which they were staying extended to the verge of the lake, and they
had found a lovely leafy nook, surrounded by oleander and myrtle, with
an unobstructed view over the blue sparkling water and the beautiful
shores, framed by mountains.

"A year ago to-day!" said Marion, meditatively, after a pause of some
length. "Do you remember how we wondered when and where we should be
together again? And here we are, with an experience behind us which is
full of dramatic changes and full of instructions--at least for me."

"Certainly for me also," observed Helen. "Looking back on what I passed
through, I realize clearly how foolish we are to regret the loss of
things that seem to us desirable, but which God knows to be just the
reverse. How miserable I was for a time! Yet that very misery was
paving the way for my present happiness."

"Very directly," said Marion, "yet it is something I do not like to
think of; for it might all have ended so differently but for the mercy
of God--and yours too, Helen. You deserve happiness, because you were
so gentle and generous under unhappiness. As for me, I deserve nothing
good, yet I have gained a great deal--the gift of faith, relief from
self-reproach, and the great pleasure of being here with you and
Claire."

Claire looked at the speaker with a smile. "The pleasure of being
together is one that we all share," she said; "and also, I think, the
sense of great gratitude to God. How much have I, for instance, to be
grateful for--I who a year ago went forth into the world with so much
reluctance--that the way has been made so clear to my feet; that I have
now such a sense of peace, such a conviction of being in the right
path!"

The others did not answer. It was hard for them--particularly hard for
Marion--to give full sympathy on this point; for the pain of impending
separation was hanging over them, and not even their recognition of the
peace of which Claire spoke could make them altogether willing to see
her pass out of their lives forever. There is the irrrevocableness and
therefore the pain of death in such partings, intensified by the fact
that just in proportion as a character is fitted for the religious life
does it possess the virtues to endear it most to those associated with
it in the world. In such cases renunciation is not altogether on one
side; and although Marion had struggled for the strength to make this
renunciation, she could not yet control herself sufficiently to speak
of it. Her own future looked very blank to her, although it had been
decided that she should remain with Helen, at least for a time, when
Claire left them.

"I will stay with you until after your return to America," she had said
to Helen when her plans were discussed; "but then I must find something
to do--some occupation with which to fill my life."

Helen shook her head. "I am sure that George will never consent to
that," she answered.

"And what has George to do with it?" asked Marion, amused by the calm,
positive tone of Helen's speech. "I am really not aware that he has any
control over me."

"Control--no," answered Helen; "but he feels that he owes you so
much--the recovery of his father's fortune without any expense or
division--that he is anxious to find something he can do for you, and
he has said again and again how much he wished that you would allow him
to make you independent."

"He could not make me independent of the need to fill my life with some
work worth the doing," said Marion. "I do not yet perceive what it is
to be, but no doubt I shall find out."

"Of course you will find out," said Claire, with her gentle,
unquestioning faith. "God never fails to show the way to one who is
willing to see it."

The way, however, had not yet been made clear to Marion as the three
sat together on this anniversary of their first parting. She felt the
difference between herself and her companions very keenly. To them life
showed itself as a clear path, which they had only to follow to be
certain that they were in the way of duty. All doubts and perplexities
were at an end for them, whereas for her they seemed only beginning.
What, indeed, was she to do with her life? She could as yet see no
answer to that question, and could only trust that in God's time the
way would be made clear to her.

The silence after Claire's last speech lasted some time; for there
seemed little to be said, though much to be felt, on the events of
the past year. At length Helen observed, looking around toward the
hotel, "How long George is in coming! He promised to follow us almost
immediately, and I think we must have been here almost an hour."

"Oh! no," said Claire, smiling, "not so long as that. But certainly he
has not fulfilled his promise of coming soon."

"And it is a pity," continued Helen; "for just now is the most
delightful time to be on the water. I believe I will go and look for
him. Will any one else come?"

Claire, who was always in readiness to do anything asked of her,
assented and rose. But Marion kept her seat. "I think this is almost
as pleasant as being on the water," she said. "But when you have found
George, and he has found a boat, and all is in readiness, you may
summon me. Meanwhile I am very comfortable where I am."

"We will summon you, then, when we are ready," said Helen. And the two
walked away toward the hotel.

Marion, who had still, as of old, a great liking for solitude, settled
herself, after the others left, in a corner of the bench on which they
had been seated, and looked at the lovely scene before her eyes which
saw its beauty as in a dream. She was living over her life of the past
year while she gazed at the distant, glittering Alpine summits; and
although she had spoken truly in saying that she was deeply conscious
of gratitude for many dangers escaped, and chiefly for the wonderful
gift of faith, there nevertheless remained a sharp recollection of
failure and pain dominating all her thoughts of the past.

Her face was very grave, therefore, and her brows knitted with an
expression of thought or suffering, when a man presently came around
a bend of the path, and paused an instant, unobserved, to regard her.
He saw, or fancied that he saw, many changes in that face since it had
fascinated him first; but they were not changes which detracted from
its charm. The beauty was as striking as ever, but the expression had
altered much. There was no longer a curve of disdain on the perfect
lips, nor a light of mockery in the brilliant eyes. The countenance had
softened even while it had grown more serious, and its intellectual
character was more manifest than ever. These things struck Brian Earle
during the minute in which he paused. Then, fearing to be observed, he
came forward.

His step on the path roused Marion's attention, and, turning her eyes
quickly from the distant scene, she was amazed to see before her the
man who was just then most clearly in her thoughts.

Startled almost beyond the power of self-control, she said nothing.
It was he who advanced and spoke. "Forgive me if I intrude, Miss
Lynde--but I was told that I should find you here; and--and I hoped
that you would not object to seeing me."

Marion, who had now recovered herself, held out her hand to meet his,
saying, quietly, "Why should I object? But it is a great surprise. I
had no idea that you were in this part of the world at all."

"My arrival here is very recent," he said, sitting down beside her;
"and you may fancy my surprise when, an hour after my arrival, I met
George Singleton, and heard the extraordinary news of his marriage to
your cousin."

"That must have astonished you very much. We first heard of it after
you left Rome."

"It astonished me the more," he said with some hesitation, "because I
had fancied it likely that in the end _you_ would marry him."

"I!" she said, coloring quickly and vividly. Then after a moment she
added, with a tinge of bitterness in her tone, "Such an idea was
natural, perhaps, considering your opinion of me. But it was a great
mistake."

"So I have learned," he answered. "But when you speak of my opinion of
you, may I ask what you conceive it to be?"

"Is it necessary that we should discuss it?" she asked with a touch of
her old haughtiness. "It is not of importance--to me."

"I am sure of that," he said, with something of humility. "But, believe
me, your opinion of it is of importance to me. Therefore I should very
much like to know what you believe that I think of you."

Her straight brows grew closer together. She spoke with the air of
one who wishes to end a disagreeable subject. "This seems to me very
unnecessary, Mr. Earle; but, since you insist, I suppose that you think
me altogether mercenary and ready, if the opportunity had been given
me, to marry your cousin for his fortune."

"Thank you," he answered when she ceased speaking. "I am much obliged
by your frankness. I feared that you did me just such injustice; and
yet, Miss Lynde, how _can_ you? In the first place, do you suppose
that I am unaware that you gave his father's fortune intact to my
cousin? And in the second place, have I not heard that you refused it
when he offered it to you again, with himself? If I had ever fancied
you mercenary, could I continue so to mistake you after hearing these
things? But indeed I never did think you mercenary, not even in the
days when we differed most on the question which finally divided us.
I did not think _then_ that you desired wealth for itself, or that
you would have done anything unworthy to gain it; but I thought you
exaggerated its value for the sake of the things it could purchase,
and I believed then (what I _know_ now) that you did injustice to
the nobleness of your own nature in setting before yourself worldly
prosperity as your ideal of happiness."

She shook her head a little sadly. "The less said of the nobleness of
my nature the better," she answered; "but I soon found that the ideal
was a very poor one, and one which could not satisfy me. I am glad your
cousin came to claim that fortune, which might else have weighed me
down with its responsibility to the end."

"And do you forgive me," he said, leaning toward her and lowering his
voice, "for having refused that fortune?"

"Does it matter," she answered, somewhat nervously, "whether I forgive
you or not? It would have ended in the same way. You, too, would have
had to give it up when your cousin appeared."

"But, putting that aside, can you not _now_ realize a little better
my motives, and forgive whatever seemed harsh or dictatorial in my
conduct?"

Marion had grown very pale. "I have no right to judge your conduct,"
she said.

"You had a right then, and you exercised it severely. Perhaps I was too
presumptuous, too decided in my opinion and refusal. I have thought so
since, and I should like to hear you say that you forgive it."

"I cannot imagine," she said, with a marked lack of her usual
self-possession, "why you should attach any importance to my
forgiveness--granting that I have anything to forgive."

"Can you not? Then I will tell you why I attach importance to it.
Because during these months of absence I have learned that my
attachment to you is as great as it ever was--as great, do I say? Nay,
it is much greater, since I know you better now, and the nobleness in
which I formerly believed has been proved. I can hardly venture to hope
for so much happiness, but if it is possible that you can think of me
again, that you can forgive and trust me, I should try, by God's help,
to deserve your trust better."

"Do not speak in that manner," said Marion, with trembling lips. "It
is I who should ask forgiveness, if there is to be any question of
it at all. But I thought you had forgotten me--it was surely natural
enough,--and that when you went away it was because--on account
of--Claire."

"You were right," he answered, quietly. "I meant to tell you that. In
the reaction of my disappointment about you, I thought of your friend;
because I admired her so much, I fancied I was in love with her. But
when she put an end to such fancies by telling me gently and kindly of
her intention to enter the religious life, I learned my mistake. The
thought of her passed away like a dream--like a shadow that has crossed
a mirror,--and I found that you, Marion, had been in my heart all the
time. I tested myself by absence, and I returned with the intention of
seeking you wherever you were to be found, and asking you if there is
no hope for me--no hope of winning your heart and your trust again."

There was a moment's pause, and then she held out her hand to him.

"You have never lost either," she said.

(THE END.)

Transcribers note:
The authors use of "woful" instead of "woeful" is legitimate and deliberate.





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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