Page images

And so was he. Her mournful voice the reluctance James Harrington arose to his feet, calmly and with with which she took back the burden of life, pained grave dignity. him, yet he could offer no adequate consolation. Com- “You have come in good time, Miss Barker," he monplaces are a mockery with persons who know that said. “ If your cloak is dry throw it around her; even there are thoughts in the depths of the soul, which must in this warmth she shivers.” not be spoken, though they color every other thought. Agnes looked back as she drew off her short cloak, Silence or subterfuge is the only refuge for those who and held the garment irresolutely in her hand. dare not speak frankly.

“But you are wet and cold, too, wrap the cloak Thus without a word, for they were too honest for around yourself. What life can be more precious !" pretence, the two remained together listening to the She said this in a low voice, and moved towards him. low sob of the winds and to the droppings of the rain He put the garment aside, and passing Agnes, stooped that dripped from the leaves, long after it had ceased to over Mr. Harrington, addressing her in a grave, gentle fall from the clouds. This hush of the storm was voice. oppressive more to Harrington than the lady, for she was “Are you stronger, now, dear lady ?" languid and dreamy and lying upon her couch of dry “ I think so!" answered Mabel, moving uneasily, leaves, very feeble and weeping quietly without a sob, “but some one else is here, I heard speaking!" like a helpless child who has no language but tears and “It was me," answered Agnes, spreading her cloak laughter. In this entire prostration of the nervous sys- softly over Mabel; “I saw your peril, dear Mrs. Hartem, she forgotmif she had ever been conscious of the rington, and came to offer help. My old nurse lives words that filled him with a tumult of painful upon the hill—if you can walk so far, she will be glad feelings.

to shelter you." He moved a little from the place where Mabel lay, Mabel attempted to sit up. The presence of Agnes and burying his face in both hands, remained perfectly Barker excited her with new strength. She pushed still, lifting a solemn petition heavenward from his aside the cloak with a feeling of repulsion, and looked silent heart, not that she might live—not even of pleadingly on Harrington. thanksgiving—but a subdued cry for strength rose up “ You will not take me up there !” she said. “It is a with the might of his whole being, a cry so ardent and dreary, dreary place !" sincere, that its very intensity kept him still.

“But it is the only shelter at hand,” urged HarWhile this was going on in his heart, a black shadow rington. had crept behind him, and Agnes Barker stood between “I know; but that woman—don't place me, helpless him and Mabel, leaving her in the firelight, but shut- as I am, with that strange woman!" ting it out from him.

“You will find a capital nurse there; I left her preHe did not feel the darkness, and the girl stood by paring a warm bed !" whispered Agnes, stooping him more than a minute before he looked up.

toward Harrington, till her breath floated across his Mabel moved with a faint expression of pain, as if she face; "the walk is a little toilsome, but short; between felt that the shadow of some evil thing had fallen us, I think she could manage it." athwart the light; but she did not unclose her eyes, Mabel heard the whisper, and sinking back on and Agnes, who had been for some time within earshot, her bed of leaves, pleaded against the measure. spole before her presence was recognized.

“I cannot go up there,” she said with some resolais there anything I can do ?" she said in her usual tion, "I could not rest with that woman near." low tones.

"Of whom does she speak ?” inquired HarringJames lifted his head, bowed almost to the dust in ton. the humility of his prayer, and saw this strange girl “It is impossible for me to guess; the fright has un. standing before him, her red garments glowing in the settled her mind, I fear," answered Agnes. firelight, her arms softly folded on her bosom, and her “No, I am sane enough,” murmured Mrs. Harringeyes glittering beneath their long lashes, like half-buried ton, “but I have been warned. No human voice ever diamonds. She seemed so like an embodiment of the spoke more plainly than that lone night bird, as I went evil passions he had prayed against, that he sat mute up the hollow-he knew that it was unholy ground I and pale, gazing upon her.

trod upon !" “You look deathly. You are hurt,” she said, stoop- “But you are not strong enough to reach home," ing toward him with a gesture at once subtle and fasci- persisted the girl Agnes, “the river is yet turbulent, nating. “I saw her boat engulphed—I saw you plunge the wind unsettled." into the stream—the storm was raging through the “She is well enough to go just where she's a mind woods, but I came through it all !"

to, I reckon," said Ben Benson, crushing through the Still Harrington remained silent, gazing fixedly upon undergrowth, "and I'm here to help her do it.” her, so astonished by her presence that he did not heed " Thank you," said Mabel, gently, “I wish to go her words.

home!" “ The lady is not dead," continued the girl, looking Ben turned towards Harrington, and, without regard over her shoulders, while her garment grew dusky, and to the presence of Agnes, spoke his mind. lurid in the waning light. “I heard her speaking, but " I don't like the cut of things up yonder, somea few moments ago."

how. The woman looks like a female Judas Iscariot.

[ocr errors]

She's eager but not kind. The madam is better off here | drooped meekly forward, as if imploring pardon for with the old tree to warm her !"

having said so much. Agnes kept her eyes steadily on Ben as he spoke; Harrington remained a moment thoughtful; at last he when he had finished, she laughed.

addressed Ben. “You are complimentary to my mammy!" she said, “Proceed up the river,” he said, "slowly it must be, “I will tell her your opinion. But have your own for the stream is against you. I will see that Miss Barway. We have offered hospitality to the lady in good ker reaches home safely, and overtake you." faith—if she prefers other shelter, I dare say we shall Ben looked up in astonishment. Why, Mister find the means of reconciling ourselves to her wishes James, she's allers alone in these ere woods. No and to your very flattering opinion, Mr. Boatman." blackbird knows the bush better, what's the use ?”

Ben threw back his right foot and made the young Mabel said nothing, but her eyes turned upon Harlady a nautical bow, accompanied with an overwhelm- rington with a wistful and surprised look. ing flourish of the hand.

“No matter, she must not go through the woods “ Delighted to hear as you and the old woman is alone,” answered Harrington. “Keep snug to the shore, agreeable. Now if you'd just as lieves, we'll try and and be ready to answer my hail; I will overtake you get madam down to the boat; I've just bailed it out. | in a few minutes." The river may be a trifle roughish yet, but there's no Harrington moved away as he uttered these words, danger.

following Agnes into the woods. Ben directed this portion of his speech to Mr. Mabel looked after them with sadness in her eyes ; James Harrington, who stood by in silence, without then, bowing her face softly upon her folded arms, she appearing to regard the conversation.

remained motionless, save that her lips moved, and He now stepped forward, and stooping over Mabel, broken whispers which the angels of Heaven gathered inquired if she was willing, and felt strong enough to and laid before the throne of God, stole through them. attempt a return home by water.

They had advanced some distance up the shore, when "Yes," answered Mabel, sitting up and striving to Harrington hailed the boat; Ben did not pretend to arrange her dress, "I am stronger now-take me home hear him, but Mabel, lifting her face, now full of genby all means. General Harrington will be terrified by tleness, said, with a smilemy absence, and Lina-dear, dear Lina, how grateful “Stop, Ben, he is calling for you!" she will be to have her mother back again!"

" Let him call and be " Ben caught the profane “And your son !" said Harrington, gently.

word in his teeth, and swallowing it with a great strug"Oh, if I did not mention him, he is always here!" gle, commenced againanswered Mabel, pressing a hand to her heart, and look- “Let him call till he's tired, why didn't he stay with ing upward with a face beaming with an expression of that old Judas and the young witch. To think of going vivid tenderness ; “I never knew how much of love off with sich like, and madame just a dying-balloo was in my soul before."

away, Ben Benson 'll sink afore he hears you !" How unconscious the noble woman was of her dreamy Ben muttered this between his teeth, and worked wanderings of speech—how pure and trustful was the away at the oars, doggedly resolved to continue his fit look which she fixed upon Harrington's face as she said of deafness, and give his master a midnight walk through this. A holy thankfulness pervaded her whole being; the dripping and rough woods, but Mabel addragsed from the black deep she seemed to have gathered a him again with a quiet firmness which he could not find world of beautiful strength.

the heart to resist. “Come," she said, struggling to her feet and smiling “Put on shore, Ben, and take your master in." in gentle derision of her weakness, as she felt her head “I begin to think he's took us all in a little too begin to reel, “I am not afraid to try the boat again, if often!" muttered Ben; but he turned reluctantly for the some one will help me."

shore, and Harrington, without speaking, took his place Harrington did not move, and after a perplexed look in the boat. from one to the other, Ben stooped his shoulder that she might lean upon it.

the storm, before the little party reached the cove When they reached the boat, Mabel was almost ex- below General Harrington's dwelling. The front of the hausted, but she found strength to think of Agnes, who house was entirely dark, but lights wandered to and fro had silently followed them.

along the hollow, and anxious voices were heard calling “Will you not get in ?" she said, faintly, “I should be to each other along the bank. glad to have you with me."

They're out searching for us !” said Ben, dropping his "No," answered the girl, in the sweetest of all ac- oars and making an impromptu speaking-trumpet of his cents, nurse would be terrified to death. I will hand; directly his voice rang along the shore. return home."

“Ben Benson, and passengers from down stream. "Not alone,” said James Harrington, “ that must not All well !” be.”

A shout answered from the shore, and directly eager Oh, Mr. Harrington, I am used to being alone. It is voices and rapid footsteps rushed toward the little cove; the fate of a poor girl like me!"

first came Ralph, wild with joy, leaping downward like There was something plaintive in her voice, and she | a panther.

the The moon had broken through the drift-clouds left by

"Is she safel is she here !” he cried, pausing with Still he was glad to have her away for the brief time dread upon the bank.

that he was in the hills, and but for her long absence "Ralph, Ralph !"

this escapade on the river might have been forgiven. He knew the voice. He sprang into the boat, and A solitary evening, added to these causes of disconfell upon his knees before his mother.

tent, had greatly ruffled the general's equanimity of “ Thank God, oh mother, mother !"

temper, and when his wife appeared deep in the night, He could say no more. Gushes of unspeakable joy her clothes in disorder, her hair disarranged, and her choked his utterance. He kissed her hands, her face, face pale as death, he felt her return in this state as a and her wet robes.

positive insult to his house. “ Mother, mother, tell me what has happened! You “Madam,” he said, with that quiet irony which was are cold—you tremble—all your clothes have been wet- the gift of his cold nature, “it is rather late, and your your bonnet is off-that dear pale face, oh mother, you toilet somewhat disarranged for the presence of gentlehave been in danger, and I not there !"

men; allow me to lead you to a mirror.” It was not His love gave her strength. She took his head necessary; Mabel had seen herself reflected in the great between her trembling hands, and kissed him again and oval glass opposite, and shrunk back, shocked both by again on the forehead.

this appearance and the cold insult to which it had “Oh, yes, my Ralph, I have been very near deathế given rise. but with all this to live for, God would not let me James Harrington remained silent, but his eyes grew die."

bright with indignation, while Ralph flung one arm "No, no, he could not make us so wretched. Oh, around his mother's waist, and turned his bright face mother, what would home be without you? It is only upon the general. an hour or two since we missed you; but those hours “My mother's life has been in peril-she comes back were full of desolation. Tell me—tell me how it was !" to us, father, almost as one from the dead."

They did it—they will tell you, I was in the depths “Indeed !" said the general with a look of quiet surof the river, but they drew me out."

prise. “Surely, madam, you did not remain out in the “They, my brother James, and that blessed old storm ? You have not been on the river all this rogue, Ben Benson, did they save you, mother, while I time ?" -1, your only son—was dreaming at home? Oh, James, " I have been in the depths of the river, I believe !" must I thank you for my mother, with all the rest !" answered Mabel with dignity. “The boat was upset

“ Thank God, Ralph, for He has saved your mother!” I was dashed beneath the wheels of a steamer, but for—"

His voice was impressive and solemn. It seemed She hesitated, and a red flush shot over her face; the like a rebuke to the ardent gratitude of the young noble woman recovered herself in an instant, “but for

your son James, and Ben Benson." "I do thank God, brother James,” he answered An answering flush came to the general's cheek. He reverently, uncovering his head. “But, to be grateful darted a quick glance at his son. to God's creatures is, so far, giving thanks to Him! "And how came Mr. Harrington so near you,

madam? How often have you told me this ?"

They told me you had gone upon the river alone." “You are right,” answered Harrington gently, “but “And so she did," answered James, stepping forsee, your mother needs assistance !"

ward. “I saw her put out from the shore, apparently Mabel had arisen, and was making ready to step from unconscious of the coming storm, and followed the the boat. Ralph turned, and flung one arm around course of her boat.” her.

"Why did you not warn her, sir?" “Lean on me, dear mother. Lay your head on my “I did, more than once at the top of my voice, but shoulder; don't mind the weight; I can carry you, if the wind was against me!" needful !"

"And when did all this happen ?" inquired the genMabel submitted herself to the affectionate guidance eral, more interested than he had been. of her son, with a sigh of pleasure, and followed by “Near a ravine, some distance down the stream. You Harrington, proceeded towards the house. When the will not perhaps be able to recognize the place, sir," anparty reached the room in which we first presented swered Mabel,“ but it is nearly opposite the small house Mabel to the reader, they found old General Harrington in which Miss Barker resides with her mother." in a state of considerable excitement.

The general did not start, but a strange expression The rigid ideas of female propriety which General crept over his features, as if he were becoming more Harrington enforced in his family, had been greatly out interested and less pleased. raged that day. This well-regulated home was thrown “May I ask you what took you in that direction, into disorder by the unaccountable absence of his wife madam ?” and Lina from the tea-table. He had followed his wife “Nothing better than a caprice, I fear," answered to the bank of the river, and with a feeling of quiet Mabel ; " at first I went out for exercise and solitude, indignation had watched her rowing her own boat then remembering Miss Barker, I put on shore." down the stream like a wild gipsy. The gathering “Surely you did not go to that house!" cried the storm and the danger she was in scarcely impressed general, interrupting her almost for the first time in his him, but the impropriety of the thing outraged all his life. fastidionsness.

“Yes, I went," answered Mabel with simplicity.



young life.

[ocr errors]


“ Indeed! and what did you find—whom did you see?” | Her hands lingered fondly among the tresses of her

“I saw a stately woman, rude and insolent, who hair, and gathering them up beneath her pretty Valencalled herself Agnes Barker's mother-nothing more.” ciennes cap, she smiled to see its gossamer shadows fall So you found an insolent woman."

upon her forehead, giving the whole face a Madonna-like “A very disagreeable one, at least, General Harring- purity. ton, but I am faint and ill-permit me to answer all With a gentle sighi, she pillowed herself upon the farther questions to-morrow!”

couch, and looked up through the cloud of snowy lace General Harrington's manner imperceptibly changed; that overshadowed it with a wistful smile, as if she he no longer enforced abrupt questions upon the ex- expected to see the stars breaking through, revealing hausted lady, but with a show of gallant attention, new glimpses of the Heaven, already dawning in her stepped forward and drew her arm through his. "You can go to your rooms, young men,” he said,

Thus cradled in her own happiness, like a lily with "I will attend to Mrs. Harrington.”

its cup full of dew, she laid that beautiful head upon “Shall I have Lina called, mother f” said Ralph, fol- her arm, and slept. The wind had nd power to arouse lowing his parents, “she did not know of your absence, her, though it shook the old house in all its gables. and I would not terrify her!"

The thunder rolled through her dreams, like the reverBefore Mabel could speak, the general answered for berating strains of a celestial harp, and when the her

lightning flamed through her room, it only kindled “No, why should Lina be disturbed? Send Mrs. the volume of lace over her head into a cloud of golden Harrington's maid,” and with a gentle wave of the tissue, under which she slept like a cherub in one band which forbade all further conversation, the gene

of Murillo's pictures. ral led his wife from the room.

Thus Lina spent the night. In the morning she arose at the usual hour, and stole forth to walk. The household were astir in the kitchen, but she saw no

member of the family, and went out unconscious of OHAPTER VI.

Mrs. Harrington's accident. When she came back, a shy terror seized upon her at the thought of meeting

Ralph again in the presence of his relatives ; and, evadLina had slept sweetly through all this turmoil of the ing the breakfast-room, she stole to her own chamber. elements and of human passions. Beautifully as a dove But loneliness at length became oppressive, and, with a she lay in her pretty white couch, with its snowy cur- breathless effort at composure, she sought a little boudoir tains brooding over her like summer clouds above open- or private sitting-room, which opened from Mrs. Haring roses. A night-lamp of pale alabaster shed its soft rington's bed-chamber, and where that lady usually moonlight through the room, and when bursts of thun- spent some hours of the morning. Lina opened the der shook the heavens, and the lightning flashed and door softly and went in, trembling with a world of gengleamed around the single Gothic casement of her tle emotions as she approached Ralph's mother. chamber, it only gave to this pearly light a golden Mrs. Harrington was seated in a large easy-chair. A tinge, and made Lina smile more dreamily in her happy morning shawl of pale blue cashmere flowed over an slumber.

underdress of English embroidery. The tint of these She was abroad upon the hills again, and in sleep garments did not relieve the pallor of her cheek, which lived over the bright hours that never return, save would have been painful, but for the crimson glow in dreams, to any human soul.

reflected upon it from the brocaded cushions of the chair. She had left Ralph in the hall, and hoarding up her Her foot rested upon an embroidered cushion; and she new found happiness she stole away to her room, kin- was languidly sipping chocolate from a cup of embossdled the alabaster lamp that no broader light shoulded parian which she had scarcely strength to hold. A look upon her bldshes, and sat down lost in a trance of beautiful Italian greyhound stood close by the cushion, thought. She veiled her eyes even from the pure light regarding her with looks of eager interrogation that around her, and started covered with blushes, when seemed almost human. the happiness flooding her soul broke in murmurs to Lina glided softly behind the easy-chair, and remain

ed a moment gathering courage to speak. At last, sho She longed to speak over his name, to whisper bent softly forward: the words with which he had blessed her, and ponder “ Mother!" over and over the tone of those words. She was bewil- Mrs. Harrington looked up kindly, but with a touch dered and astonished by her own happiness. Now she of seriousness. She had been wounded by Lina's seemlonged to steal into Mrs. Harrington's presence, and tell ing inattention. her of the great joy that had fallen upon her life, but the Before another word could be spoken, the door openfirst motion to that effect brought the blushes to her ed noiselessly, and Agnes Barker hesitated upon the cheeks, and made her cover them with both hands, like threshold, regarding the two with a dark glance. She a child who strives to hide the shame of some innocent stood a moment with the latch in her hand, as if about joy.

to withdraw again, but seemed to change her mind, At last she began to undress, softly and bashfully, as and stepped boldly into the room. t she had found some new value in her own beauty.

ber lips.

(To be continued.)

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

In the Academy of Art, some three or fours years They were both illustrations of farmer life in New ago, two pictures, exhibited by Jerome Thompson, of England. One was a spring morning, the hour just New York, were very generally admired, and a group before sunrise—the subject a lovely landscape, surof persons was sure to be found before them, go into rounding a New England farmhouse. The beautiful the gallery at any hour you would.

stillness, the floating mist above the meadows, the

« PreviousContinue »