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A T A L E IN FOUR CHAPTER 8.
Not only in Dynebridge, but along the whole valley growing into womanhood, with the same dowry of of the Dyne, there was not a fairer or sweeter girl than beauty that she possessed. She was called Claudine, Agatha Grasset; so everybody said, and so her father for Mr. Grasset had not failed to give his daughters thought; therefore he might have been the more readily whatever advantage might be in romantic names. contented to leave the matter of her settlement in life In Mr. Grasset's house his will was law, and that to Providence, confident that sooner or later, yet in good law was frequently declared with a harshness that made time, it would come.
those around him tremble. But now his good-humor But Mr. Grasset was not so contented. He was a was unfailing, and he even went the frolicsome length loud, pompous man, with a small income and a large of rallying Agatha on her “adorer," as he termed the family, and it chafed him to see this, his eldest daughter, young officer, who, he had already elicited, was the despite all her beauty, approaching her twentieth year, scion of a good family, with an allowance of three hunwhile as yet no suitor had appeared willing to take her dred a-year, and the money lodged by his family for his off his hands. The retirement of Dynebridge, and its company. dearth of young men, was a solution of the enigma that “He is no adorer of mine, papa, I assure you," said brought no consolation to Mr. Grasset, for circumstances Agatha earnestly ; and she blushed deeply at the chained him to the spot, and he saw no brighter pros- thought of speaking of any one in that light. pect for the future.
“ Oh, indeed, my dear! I thought he had been. But one day the echoes of the valley rang with the then it is your mother is the attraction, I suppose!" stirring strains of fifes and drums playing a military was the affectedly innocent reply. quickstep, and a recruiting party with ribbons flying, “Papa, low wicked you are, when you know that marched across the bridge, and took up its quarters in you are yourself the attraction !" the village. The sensation this arrival caused, it would “Am I? Dear me, I had no idea I was so charming be superfluous to describe. Everyone knows by parallel -I am afraid you flatter me. But what will you bot occasions that the village was stirred to its very foun- upon it—a silk dress to a silk handkerchief?” dations. The whole population rose to do honor to their “No, indeed, Papa; for I could not afford to pay it; guests, and higher than any other rose Mr. Grasset ; / but I don't mind betting you a hair-chain." and as he was a plausible and rather brilliant man, with “Oh, very well, that will do," he said, rising to leave a considerable knowledge of the world—some years of the room; " but, Agatha,” he continued, as he held the his life having been passed in a government office in door half-open, “I don't think you need trouble yourLondon-he soon became a great favorite with the offi- self to make it, unless for a keepsake when you go away." cers of the party.
After some time, Mr. Grasset was rather indisposed, He deserved his popularity, too, in some degree, for and confined to the house for a week or two: and every he was indefatigable in his efforts for their amusement; day came his faithful friend, Hope Cunningham, to see and many were the inexpensive little entertainments him, and was generally the bearer of a magazine, a given at his own cottage on the officers' account. And pamphlet, or a book, to brighten the hours of his imthough in more aristocratic spots those heroes would prisonment. It was never long before the invalid probably have looked with contempt on the little tea- would begin to dip into his new treasure; and then the parties, and the impromptu dance to the piano that young officer would turn his attention to the ladies of often followed them; or the picnics among the hills, in the family, and gossip, and jest, and laugh with them, which they sustained the parts of cavaliers to a bevy heedless of the passing time. But Mr. Grasset was not of village girls ; yet here they were pleasant changes to so absorbed in his reading as to be unconscious of all a monotonous life, and welcomed accordingly.
this, or unobservant of the half-admiring glances that Of the three officers, one was a devoted angler, and Hope Cunningham occasionally cast on Agatha; nor spent most of his time on the river bank; another was did he fail by sly comic looks to make his daughter an inveterate geologist, and was always wandering cognizant of his discovery, though it sent the blood among the hills, hammer in hand; so the third having rushing to her cheeks. no such resources, when once the surrounding scenery “Upon my word, it is a very pleasant thing to have had been sketched, fell completely into the hands of grown up daughters,” remarked Mr. Grasset soliloquizMr. Grasset, and was to be seen daily sauntering with ingly one day, as he looked over a beautifully illustrated him about the green lanes ; and their walk invariably work Cunningham had just left. “Their lovers are ended by their turning in together at the cottage-gate. really very polite and attentive, on the principle of And then Hope Cunningham would spend the next 'Love me love my dog,' I suppose, eh-Agatha ?” hour or so chatting pleasantly with Mrs. Grasset and “Nonsense, papa; how can you go on in this way?" her daughters-for Agatha had a younger sister fast exclaimed the young girl, blushing.
“Because the occasion inspires me. Master Hope departure-Cunningham spoke of " dear old DyneCunningham has really a very pretty way of doing the bridge,” and how happy he had been in it, rallied ber. devoted; the attention he bestows on the old father is What she hoped, she knew not; but it was pleasant to very gratifying-of course he can't do less than learn to hear him speak thus of Dynebridge; besides, she soon love him as a son."
found that he was not to leave for nearly a month, and Mrs. Grasset and Claudine laughed heartily, and who knew what might happen before then? perhaps he Agatha could not help joining them, though she denied would ask her to remember him when he was so far the imputation with almost suspicious earnestness, away—she would, whether he asked her or not. And assuring her father that the inspiration was not true, with a deep sigh she dried her eyes and went downfor that Mr. Cunningham's devotion was entirely that stairs, and tried to look as if it was nothing to her, of devotion for himself. .
when her father jested about lovers' partings. "I am very glad to hear it," was the grave reply; And now that very acute gentleinan watched with a “ for I was beginning to be particularly uneasy respect- hawk's eye each word and look that passed between the ing the expense of wedding finery."
young people; and when a few days had passed, he The next day Hope Cunningham made his appearanco stayed at home all one morning; and when Cunningham with a bunch of beautiful water-lilies, in addition to a came to seek him, he met him with the inquiry, book.
whether he had received a note from him that morn“What charming flowers) are they for me also ?” | ing? The young man replied in the negative, saying inquired Mr. Grasset.
that he had not been home since breakfast; and after “ Certainly not,” said the young officer, laughing, as sitting for a short time in wonder that his host did not he held them back from Mr. Grasset's extended band; enter on the subject on which he had written, he then gallantly expressing his regret that they were not departed, to solve the question by a reference to the more worthy of their happy destiny, he presented them note itself. to Agatha, who received them with the bashfulness In a short time he returned. of an unpractised girl, infinitely increased by the mis- “I have come about that note you sent me,” he said, chievous glance her father cast on her from behind in considerable agitation. Cunningham.
“ Come into my room, we can talk there uninter1, rupted,” replied Mr. Grasset calmly; and he led the way
to a little study on the opposite side of the cottage, and CHAPTER II.
closed the door.
“I am greatly distressed, Mr. Grasset, that there That day, when the visitor was gone, Agatha did not should have been any misconception with regard to my attempt to defend herself against her father's raillery, friendship for your family. Though I have the greatest but fled away to her own room, leaving him master of respect and esteem for Miss Grasset, I assure you I was the field. Thenceforward, whenever the garden-gate far from having any thought of engaging her affections; was heard to open, Agatha Grasset's heart seemed to or aspiring to her hand," said the young officer earstand still; and if a light firm step subsequently sounded | nestly. along the path, it beat so violently that she could Mr. Grasset sat gazing for a moment, as if he could scarce summon composure to greet the visitor who scarce believe the meaning of the words that met his appeared.
ear; and he put his hand on his heart, as though to still A few days more, and Mr. Grasset was well again the pain they gave him. But there was another heart and once more threading the green lanes with his on which they fell with a weight that crushed out hope young favorite, over whom his wit, shrewdness, and and peace, and so bruised the fair blossoms of youth, plausibility were gaining for him a considerable influ- that they would never flourish more. ence. But Mr. Grasset was not now able every day to For Hope Cunningham had another listener that he devote himself to his friend, for business frequently knew not of. In a still smaller room within that in called him to the neighboring county town. And on which they sat, Agatha, by her father's directions, was these occasions, partly from the result of habit, partly engaged in copying a passage from a book. Every from the pleasure most young men take in the society word they spoke fell on her ear with terrible exactness; of beautiful girls, Cunningham paid lengthy visits at and though, with the natural aversion of an upright the cottage, when day by day Agatha's young heart sur mind, she shrank from listening to a conversation not rendered itself more completely to his keeping.
intended for her to hear, she had no means of escape, In these tea-parties and picnics, these walks and visit the only door being that leading into the study; and ings, the summer glided pleasantly away, and autumn she felt as if she would rather endure anything than was beginning to carpet the lanes with leaves, when face Hope Cunningham while engaged in that converHope Cunningham received orders to join the service- sation. companies of his regiment in the West Indies. What a | After one wild look around, as if for some means of shock the intelligence gave Agatha! For a moment the escape, Agatha sank down in her chair, and sat with room seemed to swim round, and she caught at the her hands clasped tightly together, while each burning table to support herself. But the manner in which-in word was branded on her heart, never to be effaced. reply to her mother's expressions of regret at his! She heard her father ask his companion how he could reconcile it to his conscience to win a young girl's / set, starting up; and going tu the door, le opened it, heart as carelessly as he would pluck a flower, and reck and looked in. as little the withering of the one as of the other; and For a moment he stood silently looking at the scene she heard him whom she had so long loved coldly deny before him; then turning to his companion, he said, his belief in her affection, express his certainty that quietly, “Come here, Cunningham, there is your work she could not have so misunderstood his common-place-what do you think of it?" politeness, and his hope that Miss Grasset would In silent astonishment the young man stood for a few yet find some one far more worthy of her than he seconds, regarding the fair face that now, pale and slıould ever be.
stony, lay on the ground, pillowed only by the brown Every word Hope Cunningham uttered, every tone clustering curls, and the small hands clasped rigidly of his voice, brought conviction to Agatha's heart that together, as if in despair. he had never loved her. At once she perceived that The thought that this was caused by affection for her affection had been called forth, not by the young himself, touched Hope Cunningham's heart. Perbaps officer's attentions, but by her father's raillery in giving the sight of her exceeding beauty, as she lay there in a point and meaning to every word and look that would her unconsciousness, touched him also; and he said otherwise have passed by unnoticed. Her heart cried softly, as if he feared to disturb hersilently to him in sorrowful reproach for what he had "I will marry her. I cannot do it now; but when I done, and more bitterly for what he was now doing, in return from the West Indies I will marry her." laying open the secrets of his daughter's heart to a “That is quite sufficient," was the reply; “I only stranger's eye, and one that, as Agatha suspected, he care for my daughter's happiness." well knew to be indifferent.
Had Agatha's courage been equal to her will, she would at once have cut short this humiliating discussion, by appearing before them, and exonerating Cun
CHAPTER III. ningham, while she entreated no more might be said on a subject so uncallcd-for. But she was young and When, half-an-hour after, Agatha first opened her timid, and until recently her father had been a stern eyes, both her parents were bending over her. ruler to her; so she sat still, and with an aching heart "Ah, here is our fair bride reviving again," said her listened to her father and Cunningham pursuing that father, playfully stroking her cheek, which instantly distressing theme; and at length she heard him, with flushed the deepest crimson, though she was still too an agony of shame that made each word sharp as a weak to speak: but later in the day, when she had ralstab, entreat the young officer to marry his daughter lied, when something of the same sort was repeated, for her love's sake.
she said, earnestly, “Papa, I cannot marry Mr. Cun"I cannot," was the reply; “I have not the means." ningham !". Mr. Grasset laughed mockingly.
Her father's brow contracted into a frown, she well " It is quite true," continued the young man earnest- knew as indicative of stern displeasure. “And wherely—“ certainly I have an allowance from my brother, fore not, I pray ?" but he has the right of withdrawing it when he pleases; “I cannot be married from compassion; and that is and he would do so immediately, if I married without all Mr. Cunningham feels for me.” family or fortune-he would have no mercy on me, for “Upon my word, young lady-and so you are so exihe himself married a woman older than himself, for gent, that you must even choose why and wherefore
your husband marries you! But I tell you, Agatha “My poor Agatha!” said Mr. Grasset, sadly; "and yet Grasset, to bless your stars: it is not every girl, so poor she would make the most careful of wives.”
as you, who secures such a husband." The poor girl "I do not doubt it; I believe Miss Grasset to be pos- began to weep. The pain of bearing her unrequited sessed of every good quality."
love was nothing to the misery of being forced on “And yet you would have her to die of a broken the acceptance of him she loved. “And more I heart? Cunningham, I cannot stand by and see it." tell you, Agatha," pursued her father-"when next
This was the signal for a fresh appeal to Cunning- you see Mr. Cunningham, receive him as it is becomham's generous feelings. Agatha thought it was the ing to receive your future husband; and always treat young officer's necessities, not his feelings, prevented him as such. Remember, there are to be no silly him yielding, for his tones declared him greatly moved, offers of release, or romantic willingness to sacribut only by pity. Every fresh word her father uttered fice your own happiness to his. It would be of seemed to add to the burthen of shame pressing down no use; but the very attempt would bring on you his daughter's head, and to the heart-sickness that was anger such as you have never seen-no, not the fiftieth almost overwhelming her. At length the strain became degree of !" greater than she could bear, and she sunk fainting from Agatha had often trembled beneath her father's her seat. The book from which she had been writing anger; but even this threat did not prevent her making was disturbed by her fall, and fell heavily to the ground an effort to set Cunningham free; but he turned it off beside her.
so kindly, and looked with such admiration on her fair “Good heavens! what is that?” exclaimed Mr. Gras- face, with its timid, blusliing earnestness, that Agatha
could not persevere, and the opportunity was lost, and gold had been used to go. Of his ample allowance he so were many more.
had never saved a shilling ; so now, on the West Indian The betrothal that, had Cunningham loved her, would station, where he would be alone, he must endeavor to have made Agatha's heart so joyous, now weighed like accumulate a little fund with which to commence maran incubus upon it; and her health and spirits sank ried life on his return. Wrapped in these reflections, rapidly beneath the pressure. Mr. Grasset observed he wandered moodily about, awaiting the departure of her pale cheeks and heavy eyes, and pointed them out the troop-ship, which would not sail for some days. to Cunningham, insinuating that the anxieties of her The commanding officer kindly offered him to go home position in so long an engagement were undermining in the interval; but he had no home! The beautiful her health, and suggesting that they should be married Priory, where his dignified brother dispensed such before Cunningham's departure, to which there only stately hospitality, was closed against him, and to Mr. wanted now a few days.
Grasset's cottage he felt as if he could never apply that "I thought that matter had been already settled,” said name. He had not heart to go anywhere lest by enthe young officer coldly.
| countering some one who knew him, he should be con“I thought so too: but I am alarmed for Agatha: gratulated on bonds that already began to chafe so besides, it makes really very little difference: the mar sorely. riage would be quite private-no one would know it. Agatha would remain at home with me, and you would
CHAPTER IV. go out to your regiment as a single man; but Agatha would be much happier."
From this state of mental depression, Cunningham This plea, and Mr. Grasset's powers of persuasion was somewhat unpleasantly aroused by a letter from prevailed: Cunningham got a few days' farther leave Mr. Grasset, announcing his arrival that evening with of absence, and the indifferent bridegroom and the un- his daughter. “Agatha's health and spirits are failing willing, though loving bride, were married. What so rapidly," wrote that gentleman, " that I think it best were their prospects of happiness? If either asked she should accompany you; and I bring her down prethemselves the question, the drear autumn wind that pared for the voyage. Indeed, in every respect I think swept moaningly around the walls where their vows of it best: matrimonial separations are always painful, love and mutual helpfulness were plighted, echoed in and, with Agatha's economy, you will be at less expense their ears a sad and too probable reply.
than by yourself; but we shall miss the dear girl But there was one face on which unshadowed satis- sadly." faction beamed—that of Mr. Grasset: an expression that Cunningham knew that it was to rid himself of the was, if anything, brightened — though Cunningham " dear girl," that this last aggression on him was comlooked at them with horror-by the sight of his son-in-mitted ; and he could scarcely summon temper to law's brother-officers waiting by the church-porch to accord to the travellers a passable reception. But · greet them. Cunningham's hope of concealing his Agatha's pale and drooping aspect, her nervous timidity, marriage from his regiment vanished at once: two days and perhaps, more than all, her delicate loveliness, after, he saw its announcement in the Times, and then which, a week unseen, seemed to strike on his senses he felt aware that his marriage was known to his afresh, softened his feelings towards her, until his manfamily, and that, whatever might be the penalty, he ner became almost affectionate. But not one grain did must be prepared to meet it at once.
they soften to Mr. Grasset, who, ostentatiously unconA week after their marriage, Cunningham and Agatha scious that all was not as it should be, sat conversing parted; he with kindly-expressed wishes for the com- with his usual plausible pomposity, while he luxurifort and happiness of his beautiful bride, she with a ously quaffed the claret he knew his son-in-law could so thousand affectionate anxieties struggling in her heart, ill afford. which the consciousness that she was unloved prevented Had Mr. Grasset's heart not been utterly hard and finding utterance.
worldly, surely it would have ached as he looked on On Cunningham's arrival at the seaport whence he the two whom his machinations had bound together, as was to embark, he was met by a letter from his brother, he might already see, for a life of sorrow. Cunningdisclaiming him altogether, and throwing him on his ham, so silent, and dark, and moody; Agatha filled own resources. It was no more than he had antici- with such shrinking timidity, and such an earnest, yet pated, yet it fell as a heavy blow, for it substituted cer- unobtrusive desire not to be troublesome to the husband tainty for doubt — the certainty of ruin; for if his to whom she felt herself so unwelcome. But Mr. Grasincome hitherto had barely sufficed for his own wants, set jested and harangued with all the blindness of one how was the trifling pay of a subaltern officer to meet who would not see, and with the same composure, those of a family? And that he was not likely to rise / varied by a well-acted burst of sorrow at parting from higher for years, he was assured by a letter from the his daughter. He took his leave, and dismissed them agent, announcing that the purchase-money for his com- with a hearty "Bon voyage !” But he sent them forth pany had been withdrawn by his brother. All that without a word to cheer them, on the longer and more remained for him now was economy, pinching, grinding eventful voyage over the ocean of life, though he knew economy, which must do for him the transmuting pro- their course lay over rocks and among breakers, and cess of the alchymist, and make silver go farther than that they were in danger of shipwreck on a barren
shore. But that was nothing to him ; Agatha had now had no profession, no peculiar aptitude for anything; a husband, and it devolved on him to protect and and the search was a difficult one. He applied to guard her from want and hardship; and Mr. Grasset his wealthy brother, but he refused anything, save the returned home, rejoicing over the deed he had done, advice that he should resort to those to whom he had and resolved to marry off his second daughter - in allied himself, and so, at last, though with an embitwhich he very soon succeeded.
tered spirit and humiliated heart, Cunningham found Seven years passed, and there was again a stir at himself compelled to do; and with more feeling than Dynebridge, greater almost than that day, so long ago, was evinced by the wealthy owner of the Priory, Mr. when the recruiting party bad marched into it with Grasset received them into his home-not kindly, nor their lively music. The new event that had monopo- without many a well-winged shaft at their poverty ; lized every thought, and occupied every tongue, was still, he received them. Perhaps by that act of grace, the return of Agatha Grasset to her father's house, he sought to make some amends to bis conscience, which accompanied by her husband and her three children, all would no longer be silent, but constantly reminded him utterly penniless. All marvelled low Agatha's “grand that this poverty and sorrow were of his own causing, match” came to end so disastrously. Had they known in that he would not patiently await the course of all, it was the most natural result in the world. What events, but took his daughter's destiny into his own hands. but debts and difficulties were likely to follow Cunning-| But amid all these lowering clouds, there was one fair ham, with his diminished income and increased respon- star shone out, and its beam fell on Agatha's heart, with sibilities? And the indifferent heart, that made him a gladness that enabled her to bear all the rest-she was devoted to society, but added to them.
no longer unloved! In that hard world-struggle, she In the course of years came four children, and though had conquered her husband's heart, and the strength of they brought love with them, they added so greatly to that new-born happiness it was that bore them on the pressure, that in her anxiety about the future, it was through their sore extremity. with almost a thankful heart that Agatha laid her best- At length the clouds cleared, and another star shone loved one beneath the palm trees, and thought of its out; Cunningham obtained a small appointment, and bright home above, in contrast to what they all suffered they had again a roof of their own—a very lowly one, below. At last there came the step so long looked for- it is true; but oh, the happiness of a home to those ward to—Cunningham's commission was sold to defray who have known its want! Round the hearth sit peace his debts; and for a time they lived upon the small and joy, and hope ; for, by steadiness and attention, balance that remained—but that did not last long, and there is a promise of something better in future; and then they were penniless.
for these Hope Cunningham can pledge himself he has Cunningham endeavored to get a situation : but he suffered too much to peril the prospect lightly.
THE DYING HUSBAND.
BY MRS. AXN S. STEPHEXS.
“Nay, waver not, but fold me thus,
Pillowed upon thy faithful breast, -
Pass forth to its eternal rest!"
She stills the beating of her heart,
She clasps him in a last embrace,
The damp locks from his pallid face.
“Yes, I am dying; darkness sweeps
Like a dim pall around my bed :
Has turned to shadows on thy head.
Thy slender form wave to and fro,
Sweep downward with a ghostly flow.
I know these arms are folding me,
My soul looks on eternity!
When all around is dark and chill,
From this poor heart—be still, be still !
And there upon his cold white brow
Her grief in one wild kiss was given,
Back from the very gates of heaven.
A sigh return'd, that last caress,
As if some spirit from above
Within the fountains of his love.
“Subdue the yearnings of thy grief,
Give death its own sad mastery-
Trembling between high heaven and thee.
Death yielded to that holy kiss
His grey and gloomy shadows fled,
Stood, like a glory o'er the dead!