« PreviousContinue »
so more than generous, could not have lived the life he profound silence they reached the city, and dashing has, to prove this traitor to himself and us at last." onward, they drew up before the house to which Lina “Then you still have faith in this girl ?”
had been conveyed only a few weeks before. "I will not believe so ill of her as you seem desire, "This is the house," said Agnes, pushing the fur until some farther explanation is had. She may love robes from around her; and, without waiting for help, she my brother, and he, I cannot well understand how any sprang out, and mounted the steps just as the door was man could help loving her, for she was the purest, the opened by some one from within. A single word passed most lovely character I ever knew."
between her and the servant, just as Ralph reached her “She was that character, it is well you say was," side; but he only heard her inquiring in the ordinary answered Agnes, with a dash of scorn in her voice; way for the young lady who had just taken up her resi"for I am about to offer you proof of what she is.” dence there.
Ralph turned white, and recoiled a step back. The door was flung wide open, as if she had been “Proof-proof, have you heard something, then ?” expected, and the servant led the way into what, in the “Yes, I have heard froin Miss Lina-she has sent dim light, seemed a small drawing-room. The bland,
A private message, of which no one is to be warm atinosphere that filled this room would have been informed."
most welcome, under other circumstances, after the And, when are you going :—where is she now?" severe cold of the night; but now Ralph was hardly inquired Ralph, in breathless astonishment.
conscious either of the warmth, or an atmosphere • Now," answered Agnes. “She has sent a convey- of blooming plants which floated luxuriously around ance from the city, which waits at a curve of the road. him. Rich jets of gas burned like fairy heads in the I may not return to-night-may never return. My lower end of the room, dimly revealing the small conoccupation here is gone, and no one will regret me. I servatory from which this fragrance came, and affording came unloved, and I go away the stranger I was then !" a glimpse here and there of rich silk hangings and pic
It was dark, and Ralph could not see her face dis- tures upon the wall, whose gorgeousness forced itself tinctly, but the sound of tears was in her voice. upon the observation even in that dim twilight.
“Not so—not so !" said he, impetuously. “You will Ralph looked around with wild surprise; the place be regretted—we, at least, are not strangers ; I will go was so unlike anything he had expected to find, that for
If this girl is in the city, I will convince the moment he lost sight of the object of his coming. myself of the fact; then, if your suspicions were cor- All at once he became conscious of a third presencerect, she shall never occupy a thought of mine while I a soft flutter of garments, and the movement of some have existence.”
person advancing toward that portion of the room in “Go with me if you wish,” said Agnes, mournfully; which those tiny stars seemed burning. Directly a “it will be a few moments taken from the desolation of glow of light burst over the whole apartment. The life that must follow ; after that I shall be alone.” stars had broken into brilliant jets of flame, and a tent
Ralph scarcely heeded her ; a wild desire to see Lina, of blossoms rose before him, like some fairy nook flooded and convince himself of her falsehood, drove all other with radiance. thoughts from his mind; but the words and voice which Half-way between this background of plants and the bespoke so much tender sorrow, were remembered place he occupied, stood a woman, so gorgeously attired afterward.
and so singular in her whole appearance, that the “Come, let us begone at once," he said, folding young man uttered an exclamation of surprise, which his paletot closely, and drawing her arm through his. was answered by an angry start and an abrupt move“I thank Heaven this suspense will be ended to-mor- ment of the woman, who was evidently both astonished row. I shall be a man again."
and displeased by his presence there. Agnes leaned heavily on his arm; the deep snow
“What is this ?" she said, haughtily ; “I gave no made walking difficult, and this was her excuse. Ralph orders for the admission of strangers here." only noticed it to lend her assistance; his thoughts ran Before Ralpli could speak, Agnes Barker came forwildly toward Lina French, the gentle, kind-hearted ward, and stood for a moment looking steadily in girl who had been so long a portion of his own life, and the woman's face, thus concentrating her entire attenwhose unworthiness he could not yet wholly realize. tion on herself.
A two-horse sleigh, crowded with buffalo robes, evi- "Madam, if you are the mistress of this house," she dently the equipage of some wealthy establishment, said, with great self-possession, "you will not consider stood on the highway where it swept down to General | this ån intrusion, for it must have been with your Harrington's mansion. Ralph helped his companion in, knowledge that I was sent for to attend Miss Frenchand they dashed off noiseless as lightning, and almost as the young lady who, I am informed, has lately taken up swift.
her residence here." No word was spoken between the two during the The woman stood for a moment as if struck dumb ride. Agnes shivered now and then, as if with cold, with astonishment, then a faint smile dawned on her and this aroused Ralph for an instant from the painful mouth, which was at once displaced by angry glances revery into which he had fallen; but he only drew the cast upon Ralph Harrington. fur robes more closely about her, and sunk into perfect “And this young gentleman, certainly he was not unconsciousness of her presence once more. Thus, in sent for ?"
Again Agnes interrupted the explanation Ralph was | Agnes Barker, gently, “why did you leave them so ready to give.
abruptly, Miss French ?” “Your message, madam, was a strange one, and “I could not help leaving them. It was time. My reached me after dark. Surely a young girl coming presence there was sure to bring trouble and-a0dso far from home, might be expected to bring an don't ask me about it. Let me rest. Don't you under.
stand that it has nearly killed me. It was great love " Besides,” said Ralph, impetuously, “if Lina—if Miss that drove me away-nothing else. Still I did not French is here, I have a better right to see her than mean to go just then. A few days would not have any one else ; and, if she is in this house, I must and will made so much difference, and they would have been know her reasons for coming."
heaven to me; oh, such heaven, such heaven, you cannot " The young lady is in her room, and will receive no guess how precious every moment was at the last !" one at this time of night," answered the woman, firmly ; “But why did you send for me?" questioned Agnes,
you wish to see her, let it be at some more proper gently. “Is it that you wish to go back ?” hour."
“Go back!” cried the poor girl, starting up with a “But I, madam, have been summoned here by flush of wild delight that faded away in an instant; Miss French herself !” said Agnes, with that firm- " oh why did you say this cruel thing? It is too late ness which had marked her conduct since she entered -it is impossible; I can never go back, never, derer, the house. “Permit me to desire that you lead me never !" to her room."
Lina fell back upon her pillows, and began to moan The woman looked keenly in her face a moment, as piteously, but made a brave attempt to stifle her sobs if about to contest the wish, but some new thought on the pillow. seemed to spring up; and answering abruptly, Come, “No, no, I did not send to you with that hope, only then,” she left the room.
it was so hard to sit in this room day after day and Ralph had been alone only a moment when Agnes hear nothing—not even that they hated me. I think came back, apparently in breathless haste.
that would have been better than this dull uncertainty. “Be ready,” she whispered, “ follow me after a I only wanted to hear just one little word; my poor moment—the room is dark next to hers; be cautious heart had asked for it so long, and now you tell me and you can both see and hear what passes."
nothing." Before he could accept or reject her proposition, she “What can I tell you except that your flight has was gone.
filled the whole household with grief and consterna“ It is but right,” he reflected, controlling the first tion.” honorable impulse which revolted at this secret method “I knew it-I was sure they would feel the gloom, of gaining information; "there is some mystery which but that was better than remaining a curse and a shame can never be fathomed by straight-forward questions. to them all, you know.” I will not listen meanly; but proper or not, if Lina “A curse and a shame, Miss French !” said Agnes, French is in this house I will speak with her ?”
with dignity; "these are harsh words applied to one'sFollowing the impulse urged by these thoughts, he self. I hope you do not deserve them.” passed through the half open door, and following Agnes “Did I say shame p” cried Lina, startiog up in by the rustle of her dress, paused in the chamber she affright; “ well, well, if I did, it cannot reach him or had designated, reluctant to enter the room beyond ; wound poor mamma ; as for me, why, it is not much for be saw at a glance that the bed which stood at one matter, you know; the world does not care what beend was occupied, for a white hand fell over the side, comes of a poor little girl like me." working nervously among the folds of a white counter- A shade of compassion stole over Agnes Barker's pane, as if the person who lay there was awake and ill face. She took Lina's hand in hers, and pressed it at ease.
softly to her lips. Breathless with emotions which crowded fast and * You look grieved. I hope it is for me," said the painfully upon him, the young man sunk into a chair, gentle girl, and her eyes filled with tears. “It won't and covering his face with both hands, strove thus to hurt you or any one to be sorry for a poor child who is gain some portion of self-control; but the first tone of so very, very miserable." Lina's voice set him to trembling from head to foot, Ralph would endure this touching scene no longer; and it was a moment before he could see objects dis- he started up and rushed towards the bed, with both tinctly enough to recognize her in her white robe and trembling hands extended, and his chest hearing with among those snowy pillows.
emotion. “So you have come at last," she said, rising on one “Lina, Lina!” he cried, falling on his knees by the elbow and holding out her hand to Agnes, with a look bed. Stop, Lina, you are killing me-oh, girl, girl, of eager delight, which flushed her cheeks and kindled what had I done that you should bring this ruin on as her blue eyes with a wild brillancy the young man had both ?" never seen in them before; “tell me, oh, tell me how Lina uttered a wild cry at his approach, half rose in they all are—my dear, dear mamma, is she well ? does the bed with her arms outstretched, and flung herself she pine about my absence-does she talk of me?" upon his bosom, covering his hands his face and his
“Mrs. Harrington is grieved and very anxious," said | hair with kisses, then, as if struck to the soul with a
sudden memory, her arms fell away, her lips grow and widen the ruin that has so far fallen on me alone deadly white, and she sunk back to the pillows, shud--promise me, Ralph, promise me, if you would not have dering from head to foot.
me die before your eyes !" “Lina, Lina say that you love me yet—in the name “On one condition, Lina; go home with me nownf heaven tell me what this means—never before have my mother will receive you joyfully. This miserable you seemed to love me entirely, and now
absence has not been made public. Take back the pro“Now,” she said, rising feebly to a sitting posture, tection you have abandoned. I will not ask your connow sweep those kisses away, sweep them utterly fidence, only be honest and truthful with my mother. away, I charge you—there is shame and sin in every She loves you. She is forgiving as the angels. Her one; would that my lips had been withered before they beautiful virtues will redeem you, Lina. She is too gave such kisses, and to yon, Ralph Harrington !” magnanimous for severity, too pure for cowardly hesi
“Lina, Lina French, is this real ?” cried the young tation": man, rising slowly to l:is feet, pale as death, but check- Lina began to weep on her pillow, till the pale hands ing the tears that had at first rushed tenderly to his with which she covered her face, were wet with tears. eyes. May the God of heaven forgive you and help “Oh! she is good-she is an angel of love and me, for I had rather died than meet the pang of this mercy; but this is why it is impossible for me to go moment."
back—don't ask me, oh! Ralph, Ralph, you are killing “I know, I know it is dreadful—see what it has done!" me with this kindness. Go away, go away! perhaps
She lifted up her pale hand that had fallen away till God will let me die and then all will be right.” it looked almost transparent; like that of a sick child, “Lina, this is infatuation; you shall return home and held it trembling towards him. Then she besought with me; have no fear of my presence; in a week after him, with mournful entreaty, to go away, for her heart you accept the shelter of my father's roof, again I go had ceased to beat. She wanted time for prayer before away. the death-pang came.
For an instant Lina, brightened up, then a still more There was a depth of despondency in her voice, and mournful expression came to her eyes, quenching the an utter hopelessness of speech that touched every kind gleam of yearning hope, and she shook her head with a feeling in the young man's heart.
gesture of total despondency. “Don't, don't, my lieart “No, Lina, I will not leave you in this unhappy con- is breaking, I could tell her nothing; he has forbidden it." dition," he said; “your words have shocked me beyond “ He !" repeated the young man, furiously, great everything; nothing but your own avowal would have heavens, can you plead such authority, and to me?" convinced me that one so good as you were, Lina, “Forgive me, oh, forgive me; I am so feeble, so could have-have-oh! Lina, Lina, this is terrible.” miserably helpless, words escape me when I do not
“I know it,” she answered faintly, “I know it, but know it. Do not bring them up against me. Oh, we must be patient."
Ralph, I am very, very unhappy. The lonesomeness was “ Patient!” exclaimed the young man, “ but if I can killing me, and now you have come upon me unawares, be nothing else, one thing is certain, I have the right to turn that dull anguish into torture. How could you of & wronged, outraged brother to protect you, this ask me to go home? it was cruel-ah, me, how cruel !" specious hypocrite shall answer for the ruin he has “What can I do, how shall I act ?” cried Ralph, brought upon us all!"
appealing to Agnes Barker, who stood earnestly regardLina started up wildly, "Ralph, Ralph, of whom are ing the scene. you speaking ?”
“Leave her at present," said the girl, softly smooth“Of the man who has wronged you, Lina—who has ing Lina's tresses with her hand.
“ Reflection may disgraced the name of Harrington, and who, so help me induce her to accept your noble offer; certainly, at God! shall yet render you such justice as the case present, she is too ill for any attempt at a removal." permits.”
“I will consult my mother,” said Ralph, looking Lina gasped for breath, 'you know it then-who mournfully down upon the unhappy girl, whose eyelids told you, not my-not him ?”
began to quiver from the weight of tears, that pressed “No one told me, Lina: he is not so base as to against them, when he spoke of her benefactress ; boast of the ruin he has made ; heaven forbid that one “Lina, promise me not to leave this place till I have who has a drop of my blood in his veins should sink consulted with her." low enough for that; but the facts, your presence here, Again Lina struggled for energy to speak, but her this cruel desertion of your friends, the insane tenacity voice only reached him in a hoarse whisper. with which you cling to this miserable fate—is it not “Ralph, don't; please never mention me to mamma, enough ?”
it can only do harm-promise this Ralph. I cannot “Then he knows nothing-oh! thank God for that,” plead, I cannot weep, but if this is my last breath it gasped Lina, with a faint hysterical laugh.
prays you not to mention that you saw me to your “I know enough to justify me in demanding an mother." explanation, and avenging you after it is made," said Ralph hesitated till saw Lina's eyes, that were Ralph, sternly.
fixed imploringly upon him, closing with a deathly “No, not that, I charge you, Ralph Harrington, not slowness, while her face became as pallid as the linon to ask this explanation of any one. It will only deepen I on which it rested.
" Lina, Lina, I promise anything, only do not turn so been yours but for this rash introduction of the young white !” he exclaimed, terrified by her stillness.
man into a house he should never have seen." She opened her eyes quickly, and tried to smile, but “Give me that confidence now, and it may avail the effort exhausted itself in a faint quiver of the lips. something p" answered Agnes, always insolent and disShe was too much exhansted even for weeping.
respectful to the woman before her; " that I have some “Come,” said Agnes, laying her hand on the young of your precious blood in my veins, you have taken
"this excitement will do her more injury plenty of opportunities to impress upon me, but it than you dream of. Go down stairs a little while, and shall not prevent my seeking happiness in my own wait for me there."
Ralph took Lina's poor little hand from its rest on the “ Then you are resolved to entice this young man counterpane, and, with a touch of his old tenderness, into a marriage, Agnes ?” was about to press his lips upon it; but a bitter memory “I am resolved that he shall desire it as much as seized him, and he dropped it, musing, “Poor child, myself.” poor child, it is a hard wish, but God had been merciful Again Zillah covered the girl with her scornful if this stillness were, indeed, death !"
glances. A pang of tender sorrow ran through Lina's appa- “You have, perhaps, commenced this pleasant rently lifeless frame, as a broken lily is disturbed by the work ”wind, but she had no strength even for a sob; she “I tell you, girl," she broke forth more passionately, heard his footsteps as he went out, but they sounded “this is a subject that you shall not dare to triile with. afar off, and, when all was still, she fell into total 1 desire you to leave General Harrington's house ; it is unconsciousness.
no safe home for you. Obey me, and in a little time Then the woman who had received Ralph and Agnes all the fragments of my legacy shall be yours." came in from an adjoining room, and, bending down, “I should fancy those fragments were pretty well listened for the breath that had just been suspended; used up, if all the finery in this house is paid for," said when satisfied that the poor sufferer was totally uncon- Agnes, with a scornful laugh. * Even as a speculascious, she turned with a fierce look upon Agnes. tion, my own project is the best.”
“Now, Agnes, tell me the meaning of this intrusion. “ Then you are determined to stay in the house with How dare you bring that young man here without my this young man ?” permission ?"
“Why, ain I not well-protected, and is it not the “I brought him, madam, because you were resolved most natural thing in the world ? Mrs. Harrington has to leave my share of the compact half-performed. Did lost her companion-I fill her place. Then, there is I not warn you in the beginning that his alienation the precious old chamber-maid ; she might have more from this girl must be complete? Nothing would con- dangerous people in the house than I am.” vince him that she was utterly lost, but the sight he has “True,” muttered Zillah, thoughtfully. “Well, girl, just witnessed. It was a dangerous experiment, but I take your own way a little longer; but, remember, I have conquered with it."
must have a promise that no engagement shall be made “And for what purpose? I tell you, girl, all this with Ralph Harrington without my previous knowledge. craft and perseverance is exhausted for nothing. You A few weeks, Agnes, will bring our affairs to a crisis are constantly crossing my purposes, and only to defeat when you and I shall be all-powerful or nothing. As yourself in the end."
for this wild love-but haslı!” “It is useless reasoning in this fashion,” answered Zillah pointed warningly toward the bed, where Agnes, insolently; "half-confidences always lead to Lina was struggling into consciousness again. confusion. The truth is, madam, you have not at any you better, love ?" she inquired, gently bending over time really studied my interests; there is something the pale form. beyond it all that I have had no share in from the first. I But Lina faintly turned away her head, without even have been frank and above-board, while you are all an attempt at speech. mystery. My love for the young gentleman below was Taking advantage of the moment, Agnes left the confessed the moment my own lieart became conscious chamber, and glided down into the room where Ralph of it. Nothing but his lingering trust in this frail thing sat waiting, harassed with painful thoughts. kept back all the response to that love that I can desire. He did not notice Agnes as she came gliding up the This visit has utterly nprooted that faith. The way room, and took her place on the sofa by his side; but is clear now. Another month, and you shall see if I am directly the clasp of soft fingers on his hand, which fell defeated."
listlessly on the cashion, made him look up, and the The woman smiled derisively.
large, compassionate eyes of Agnes Barker looked into “Poor fool,” she said, " a single sweep of my hand-his. Unconsciously he clasped the fingers that had or a word from my lips, and all your romantic dreams sought his. “How is she now? I am sure that you are dashed away. I have separated the miserable girl were kind to her, poor young thing." from her lover, to gratify the wildest delusion that ever Agnes did not answer; but, as he looked up, astonentered a human brain. This very night I sent for you, ished at her silence, the sight of her dark eyes flooded that this game of cross-purposes might have an end. with tears, and a broken sob that struggled up from her The confidence you have so often asked for, would have l bosom, took him by surprise. In all his acquaintance
witli her, he had never seen Agnes shed a tear till that | Directly Ralph relinquished the hand slowly, and moment.
** You are ready to cry," he said, gratefully. “Heaven “Miss Barker, you pity me. You feel compassion for knows a better reason for tears never existed-poor, the tenacity of affection which clings around its object lost girl !”
even in ruin. I understand this, and am grateful.” “ You give me too much credit,” said Agnes, in Agnes clenched the rejected hand in noiseless pas. a low voice; “from my soul I pity the unhappy young sion, but Ralph only saw the great tears that fell into creature up stairs—but, indeed, indeed, I envy her, her lap. He stood a moment irresolute, and then placed 100 !"
himself again by her side. “Envy her ?”
“Do not weep, Miss Barker; you only make my “Indeed, yes, that so much love—such heavenly for- unhappiness more complete !" giveness can outlive her fault; that she has even now He looked up, and again their eyes met. the power to reject the compassion withheld from deeper “If it were so, you can at least give me pity in and purer feelings in others. Oh, yes, Ralph Harring- exchange for pity !" she said, with gentle humility; ton, it is envy more than anything else that fills my “faith to the faithless cannot forbid this to me." eyes with tears."
Ralph was silent; in the tumult of his thoughts he “Agnes !” exclaimed the young man, breathlessly. forgot to answer, and that moment Zillah entered the
The girl bent her head, and made a faint effort room to withdraw her hand from his tightened clasp.
(To be continued.)
SOME ACCOUNT OF A CELEBRATED PICTURE.
A GENTLEMAN, one day, walked into the shop of thing about that; but it's a fine picture; quite a a Jew picture-dealer. The place was filled with pic- gem. tures of all shapes and sizes, and of every degree of
age, “Very likely, but your price is out of the question. quality, and value. There were some that seemed fit to Why, Mr. Isaacs, you astonish me; to ask seven take a place in the cabinet of a connoisseur; others that hundred pounds for a picture that you know nothing merited no higher place than the smoke-begrimed walls about.” of a tavern. In fact, there were pictures for all cus- Isaacs replied by insisting that it was a gem for all
They were placed on cabinets, arranged that. against chairs, hung on the walls, and were even lit- “Well; but you will make some reduction in seven tered about the floor.
hundred pounds, Mr. Isaacs ?” Isaacs, yon may be sure, was glad to see a customer. · Reduction, eh? ah, well, yes, I will. I will say to As the gentleman entered, he rubbed his hands, and you six hundred pounds; there!" chuckled with hopeful satisfaction.
Oh, nonsense, nonsense, Isaacs. You don't suppose “Humpb, ha!” said the visitor, looking about him; that I am a fool. Six hundred pounds, man; say sixty "you appear to have a pretty extensive collection at once.” at present, Mr. Isaacs ?”
"Sixty! sixty pounds for the Roman Emperors !" " Ah-yes; very, sir, very extensive collection. screamed Isaacs ; “no, no, no; s'help me, no; O Lord, Some fine pictures, sir; fine pictures.”
no! no, you're joking, surely. Oh, no, s'help me.” “Humph, no doubt, Mr. Isaacs, no doubt; but I can't The little Jew seemed horror-struck at the bare idea say I discover any gems among them exactly. Let me of sixty pounds for the Roman Emperors, and threw see.” Here the gentleman paused and fixed his gaze, up his hands, and turned up his eyes in a frightful with marked attention, upon a large picture which way. covered nearly half of the wall. Isaacs saw, at once, “Well; but you will surely make some abatement on that it had caught his fancy, and exclaimed
six hundred pounds, Mr. Isaacs ; some abatement?” said “Ab, that's a fine picture, now; a perfect gem the stranger. that is."
“Ah! some abatement; yes, may be; some abate“How much do you want for it, Mr. Isaacs ?” ment; that is another thing. I will say to you—five
"Well, I will take seven hundred pounds for that hundred pounds, there now—five hundred pounds for picture; seven hundred pounds, not a penny less." the Roman Emperors.”
“Seven hundred pounds !" said the gentleman, in a Oh, no, Isaacs; hundreds are out of the question. slow and deliberate tone of amazement; “what non- Name a reasonable sum, and I may deal with you.” sense yon do talk, Mr. Isaacs. Why, what is the “Reasonable sum !” said Isaacs, in an injured tone. picture ?"
“I say a reasonable sum. Five hundred pounds is “What is the picture ?” said Isaacs; "it's the Roman a Emperors; the finest picture I've got in my shop.” “Now don't talk about five hundred pounds."
“But why do you set such a value upon it, Mr. Isaacs ? “Well, say four hundred.” Who painted it ?"
" Nopsense!” “Ah! I don't know who painted it. I know no- “Say three hundred; there! three hundred pounds