Part 2 out of 8
"Without ME?" asked Victor in much surprise, and Richard replied,
"Yes, without you," adding in an aside to Arthur, "Victor is so
much accustomed to waiting upon me that he thinks himself
necessary to every movement, but I'd rather travel alone with
Edith, she'll do as well as Victor, and I have a fancy to keep my
movements a secret, at least until the child is fairly in the
house. It will be a surprise to Mrs. Atherton; I'll have John
drive us to the next station, and meet me there to-morrow,"
So saying, he excused himself for a few moments and groped his way
up stairs to make some necessary changes in his dress. For several
minutes Arthur was alone, and free to congratulate himself upon
his escape from detection.
"In my dread of recognition I undoubtedly aggravated its chances,"
he thought. "Of course this Mr. Harrington did not observe me
closely. It was night, and he was almost blind, even then. My
voice and manner are all that can betray me, and as he is
apparently satisfied on that point, I have nothing further to
apprehend from him."
Arthur liked to feel well--disagreeable reflections did not suit
his temperament, and having thus dismissed from his mind the only
thing annoying him at the present, he began to examine the books
arrayed so carefully upon the shelves, whistling to himself as he
did so, and pronouncing Arthur St. Claire a pretty good fellow
after all, if he had a secret of which most people would not
approve. He had just reached this conclusion when Richard
reappeared, and breakfast was soon after announced by the valet,
Victor. That being over, there was not a moment to be lost if they
would reach the cars in time for the next train, and bidding his
father a kind adieu, Richard went with Arthur to the carriage, and
was driven to the depot of the adjoining town. More than one
passenger turned their heads to look at the strangers as they came
in, the elder led by the younger, who yet managed so skillfully
that but few guessed how great a calamity had befallen the man
with the dark hair, and black, glittering eyes. Arthur took a
great pride in ministering to the wants of his companion, and in
all he did there was a delicacy and tenderness which touched a
chord almost fraternal in the heart of the blind man, who, as the
day wore on, found himself drawn more and more toward his new
"I believe even I might be happy if both you and Edith could live
with me," he said, at last, when Albany was reached, and they were
ascending the steps to the Delevan.
"Poor little Edith," rejoined Arthur, "I wonder if she has been
very lonely? Shall we go to her at once?"
"Yes," answered Richard, and leaning on Arthur's arm, he proceeded
to the door of Edith's room.
RICHARD AND EDITH.
"Oh, Mr. Arthur, you did come back," and forgetting, in her great
joy, that Arthur was a gentleman, and she a waiting-maid, Edith
wound her arms around his neck, and kissed him twice ere he well
knew what she was doing.
For an instant the haughty young man felt a flush of insulted
dignity, but it quickly vanished when he saw the tall form of
Richard bending over the little girl and heard him saying to her,
"Have you no welcoming kiss for me?"
"Yes, forty hundred, if you like," and in her delight Edith danced
about the room like one insane.
Thrusting the locket slily into Arthur's hand, she whispered,
"I slept with her last night, and dreamed it was not the first
time either. Will you ask her when you see her if she ever knew
"Yes, yes," he answered, making a gesture for her to stop as
Richard was about to speak.
"Edith, said Richard, winding his arm around her, "Edith, I have
come to take you home--to take you to Collingwood to live with me.
Do you wish to go?"
"Ain't there ghosts at Collingwood?" asked Edith, who, now that
what she most desired was just within her reach, began like every
human being to see goblins in the path. "Ain't there ghosts, at
Collingwood?--a little boy with golden curls, and must I sleep in
the chamber with him?"
"Poor child," said Richard, "You too, have heard that idle tale.
Shall I tell you of the boy with golden hair?" and holding her so
close to him that he could feel the beating of her heart and hear
her soft, low breathing, he told her all there was to tell of his
half-brother Charlie, who died just one day after his young
mother, and was buried in the same coffin.
They could not return to Collingwood that night, and the evening
was spent in the private parlor which Arthur engaged for himself
and his blind friend. It was strange how fast they grew to liking
each other, and it was a pleasant sight to look at them as they
sat there in the warm firelight which the lateness of the season
made necessary to their comfort--the one softened and toned down
by affliction and the daily cross he was compelled to bear, the
other in the first flush of youth when the world lay all bright
before him and he had naught to do but enter the Elysian fields
and pluck the fairest flowers.
It was late when they separated, but at a comparatively early hour
the next morning they assembled again, this time to bid good-by,
for their paths hereafter lay in different directions.
"You must write to me, little metaphysics," said Arthur, as with
hat and shawl in hand he stood in the depot on the east side of
"Yes," rejoined Richard, "she is to be my private amanuensis, and
shall let you know of our welfare, and now, I suppose, we must
It was a very pleasant ride to Edith, pleasanter than when she
came with Arthur, but a slight headache made her drowsy, and
leaning on Richard's arm she fell asleep, nor woke until West
Shannondale was reached. The carriage was in waiting for them, and
Victor sat inside. He had come ostensibly to meet his master, but
really to see the kind of specimen he was bringing to the
aristocratic halls of Collingwood.
Long and earnest had been the discussion there concerning the
little lady; Mrs. Matson, the housekeeper, sneering rather
contemptuously at one who heretofore had been a servant at Brier
Hill. Victor, on the contrary, stood ready to espouse her cause,
thinking within himself how he would teach her many points of
etiquette of which he knew she must necessarily be ignorant; but
firstly he would, to use his own expression, "see what kind of
metal she was made of."
Accordingly his first act at the depot was to tread upon her toes,
pretending he did not see her, but Edith knew he did it purposely,
and while her black eyes blazed with anger, she exclaimed,
"You wretch, how dare you be so rude?"
Assisting Richard into the carriage, Victor was about to turn
away, leaving Edith to take care of herself, when with all the air
of a queen, she said to him,
"Help me in, sir. Don't you know your business!"
"Pardonnez, moi," returned Victor, speaking in his mother tongue,
and bowing low to the indignant child, whom he helped to a seat by
An hour's drive brought them to the gate of Collingwood, and Edith
was certainly pardonable if she did cast a glance of exultation in
the direction of Brier Hill, as they wound up the gravelled road
and through the handsome grounds of what henceforth was to be her
"I guess Mrs. Atherton will be sorry she acted so," she thought,
and she was even revolving the expediency of putting on airs and
not speaking to her former mistress, when the carriage stopped and
Victor appeared at the window all attention, and asking if he
should "assist Miss Hastings to alight."
In the door Mrs. Matson was waiting to receive them, rubbing her
gold-bowed spectacles and stroking her heavy silk with an air
which would have awed a child less self-assured than Edith.
Nothing grand or elegant seemed strange or new to her. On the
contrary she took to it naturally as if it were her native
clement, and now as she stepped upon the marble floor of the lofty
hall she involuntarily cut a pirouette, exclaiming, "Oh, but isn't
this jolly! Seems as if I'd got back to Heaven. What a splendid
room to sing in," and she began to warble a wild, impassioned air
which made Richard pause and listen, wondering whence came the
feeling which so affected him carrying him back to the hills of
Mrs. Matson looked shocked, Victor amused, while the sensible
driver muttered to himself as he gathered up his reins, "That gal
is just what Collingwood needs to keep it from being a dungeon."
Mrs. Matson had seen Edith at Brier Hill, but this did not prevent
her from a close scrutiny as she conducted her to the large,
handsome chamber, which Richard in his hasty directions of the
previous morning had said was to be hers, and which, with its
light, tasteful furniture, crimson curtains, and cheerful blazing
fire seemed to the delighted child a second paradise. Clapping her
hands she danced about the apartment, screaming, "It's the
jolliest place I ever was in."
"What do you mean by that word JOLLY?" asked Mrs. Matson, with a
great deal of dignity; but ere Edith could reply, Victor, who came
up with the foreign chest, chimed in, "She means PRETTY, Madame
Matson, and understands French, no doubt. Parley vous Francais?"
and he turned to Edith, who, while recognizing something familiar
in the sound, felt sure he was making fun of her and answered
back, "Parley voo fool! I'll tell Mr. Harrington how you tease
Laughing aloud at her reply, Victor put the chest in its place,
made some remark concerning its quaint appearance, and bowed
himself from the room, saying to her as he shut the door,
"Bon soir, Mademoiselle."
"I've heard that kind of talk before," thought Edith, as she began
to brush her hair, preparatory to going down to supper, which Mrs.
Matson said was waiting.
At the table she met with the old man, who had seen her alight
from the carriage, and had asked the mischievous Victor, "Who was
the small biped Richard had brought home?"
"That," said Victor. "Why, that is Charlie turned into a girl."
And preposterous as the idea seemed, the old man seized upon it at
once, smoothing Edith's hair when he saw her, tapping her rosy
cheeks, calling her Charlie, and muttering to himself of the
wonderful process which had transformed his fair-haired boy into a
Sometimes the utter impossibility of the thing seemed to penetrate
even his darkened mind, and then he would whisper, "I'll make
believe it's Charlie, any way," so Charlie he persisted in calling
her, and Richard encouraged him in this whim, when he found how
much satisfaction it afforded the old man to "make believe."
The day following Edith's arrival at Collingwood there was a long
consultation between Richard and Victor concerning the little
girl, about whose personal appearance the former would now know
"How does Edith Hastings look?" he asked, and after a moment of
grave deliberation, Victor replied,
"She has a fat round face, with regular features, except that the
nose turns up somewhat after the spitfire order, and her mouth is
a trifle too wide. Her forehead is not very high--it would not
become her style if it were. Her hair is splendid--thick, black
and glossy as satin, and her eyes,--there are not words enough
either in the French or English language with which to describe
her eyes--they are so bright and deep that nobody can look into
them long without wincing. I should say, sir, if put on oath,
there was a good deal of the deuce in her eyes."
"When she is excited, you mean," interrupted Richard. "How are
they in repose?"
"They are never there," returned Victor. "They roll and turn and
flash and sparkle, and light upon one so uncomfortably, that he
begins to think of all the badness he ever did, and to wonder if
those coals of fire can't ferret out the whole thing."
"I like her eyes," said Richard, "but go on. Tell me of her
"Black, of course," continued Victor, "but smooth as glass, with
just enough of red in it to make rouge unnecessary. On the whole I
shouldn't wonder if in seven or eight years' time she'd be as
handsome as the young lady of Collingwood ought to be."
"How should she be dressed?" asked Richard, who knew that Victor's
taste upon such matters was infallible, his mother and sister both
having been Paris mantua-makers.
"She should have scarlet and crimson and dark blue trimmed with
black," said Victor, adding that he presumed Mrs. Atherton would
willingly attend to those matters.
Richard was not so sure, but he thought it worth the while to try,
and he that night dispatched Victor to Brier Hill with a request
that she would, if convenient, call upon him at once.
"Don't tell her what I want," he said, "I wish to surprise her
with a sight of Edith."
Victor promised obedience and set off for Brier Hill, where he
found no one but Rachel, sitting before this kitchen fire, and
watching the big red apples roasting upon the hearth.
"Miss Grace had started that morning for New York," she said, "and
the Lord only knew when she'd come home."
"And as he probably won't tell, I may as well go back," returned
Victor, and bidding Rachel send her mistress to Collingwood as
soon as she should return, he bowed himself from the room.
As Rachel said, Grace had gone to New York, and the object of her
going was to repair the wrong done to Edith Hastings, by taking
her a second time from the Asylum, and bringing her back to Brier
Hill. Day and night the child's parting words, "You'll be sorry
sometime," rang in her ears, until she could endure it no longer,
and she astonished the delighted Rachel by announcing her
intention of going after the little girl. With her to will was to
do, and while Victor was reporting her absence to his master, she,
half-distracted, was repeating the words of the matron,
"Has not been here at all, and have not heard from her either!
What can it mean?"
The matron could not tell, and for several days Grace lingered in
the city, hoping Arthur would appear, but as he failed to do this,
she at last wrote to him at Geneva, and then, in a sad, perplexed
state of mind, returned to Shannondale, wondering at and even
chiding old Rachel for evincing so little feeling at her
But old Rachel by this time had her secret which she meant to
keep, and when at last Grace asked if any one had called during
her absence, she mentioned the names of every one save Victor, and
then tried very hard to think "who that 'tother one was. She
knowed there WAS somebody else, but for the life of her she
couldn't"--Rachel did not quite dare to tell so gross a falsehood,
and so at this point she concluded to THINK, and added suddenly,
"Oh, yes, I remember now. 'Twas that tall, long-haired, scented-
up, big-feelin' man they call Squire Herrin'ton's VALLY."
"Victor Dupres been here!" and Grace's face lighted perceptibly.
"Yes, he said MOUSE-EER, or somethin' like that--meanin' the
squire, in course--wanted you to come up thar as soon as you got
home, and my 'pinion is that you go to oncet. 'Twont be dark this
Nothing could be more in accordance with Grace's feelings than to
follow Rachel's advice, and, half an hour later, Victor reported
to his master that the carriage from Brier Hill had stopped before
their door. It would be impossible to describe Mr. Atherton's
astonishment when, on entering the parlor, the first object that
met her view was her former waiting-maid, attired in the crimson
merino which Mrs. Matson, Lulu, the chambermaid, and Victor had
gotten up between them; and which, though not the best fit in the
world, was, in color, exceedingly becoming to the dark-eyed child,
who, perched upon the music-stool, was imitating her own operatic
songs to the infinite delight of the old man, nodding his approval
of the horrid discords.
"Edith Hastings!" she exclaimed, "What are you doing here?"
Springing from the stool and advancing towards Grace, Edith
"I live here. I'm Mr. Richard's little girl. I eat at the table
with him, too, and don't have to wash the dishes either. I'm going
to be a lady just like you, ain't I, Mr. Harrington?" and she
turned to Richard, who had entered in time to hear the last of her
There was a world of love in the sightless eyes turned toward the
little girl, and by that token, Grace Athertoa knew that Edith had
"Run away, Edith," he said, "I wish to talk with the lady alone."
Edith obeyed, and when she was gone Richard explained to Grace
what seemed to her so mysterious, while she in return confessed
the injustice done to the child, and told how she had sought to
repair the wrong.
"I am glad you have taken her," she said. "She will be happier
with you than with me, for she likes you best. I think, too, she
will make good use of any advantages you may give her. She has a
habit of observing closely, while her powers of imitation are
unsurpassed. She is fond of elegance and luxury, and nothing can
please bar more than to be an equal in a house like this. But what
do you wish of me? What can I do to assist you?"
In a few words Richard stated his wishes that she should attend to
Edith's wardrobe, saying he had but little faith in Mrs. Matson's
taste. He could not have selected a better person to spend his
money than Grace, who, while purchasing nothing out of place,
bought always the most expensive articles in market, and when at
last the process was ended, and the last dressmaker gone from
Collingwood, Victor, with a quizzical expression upon his face,
handed his master a bill for five hundred dollars, that being the
exact amount expended upon Edith's wardrobe. But Richard uttered
no word of complaint. During the few weeks she had lived with him
she had crept away down into his heart just where Charlie used to
be, and there was nothing in his power to give which he would
withhold from her now. She should have the best of teachers, he
said, particularly in music, of which she was passionately fond.
Accordingly, in less than a week there came to Collingwood a
Boston governess, armed and equipped with all the accomplishments
of the day; and beneath the supervision of Richard and Victor,
Grace Atherton and Mrs. Chapen, Edith's education began.
Eight times have the Christmas fires been kindled on the hearths
of Shannondale's happy homes; eight times the bell from St Luke's
tower has proclaimed an old year dead, and a new one born; eight
times the meek-eyed daisy struggling through the April snow, has
blossomed, faded and died; eight times has summer in all her
glowing beauty sat upon the New England hills, and the mellow
autumnal light of the hazy October days falls on Collingwood for
the eighth time since last we trod the winding paths and gravelled
walks where now the yellow leaves are drifting down from the tall
old maples and lofty elms, and where myriad flowers of gorgeous
hue are lifting their proud heads unmindful of the November frosts
hastening on apace. All around Collingwood seems the same, save
that the shrubs and vines show a more luxurious growth, and the
pond a wider sweep, but within there is an empty chair, a vacant
place, for the old man has gone to join his lost ones where there
is daylight forever, and the winter snows have four times fallen
upon his grave. They missed him at first and mourned for him
truly, but they have become accustomed to live without him, and
the household life goes on much as it did before.
It is now the afternoon of a mild October day, and the doors and
windows are opened wide to admit the warm south wind, which,
dallying for a moment with the curtains of costly lace, floats on
to the chamber above, where it toys with the waving plumes a young
girl is arranging upon her riding hat, pausing occasionally to
speak to the fair blonde who sits watching her movements, and
whose face betokens a greater maturity than her own, for Grace
Atherton's family Bible says she is thirty-two, while Edith is
Beautiful Edith Hastings. Eight years of delicate nurture, tender
care and perfect health have ripened her into a maiden of wondrous
beauty, and far and near the people talk of the blind man's ward,
the pride and glory of Collingwood. Neither pains nor money, nor
yet severe discipline, have been spared by Richard Harrington to
make her what she is, and while her imperious temper has bent to
the one, her intellect and manners have expanded and improved
beneath this influence of the other, and Richard has not only a
plaything and pet in the little girl he took from obscurity, but
also a companion and equal, capable of entering with him the mazy
labyrinths of science, and astonishing him with the wealth of her
richly stored mind. Still, in everything pertaining to her
womanhood she is wholly feminine and simple-hearted as a child.
Now, as of old, she bounds through the spacious grounds of
Collingwood, trips over the grassy lawn, dances up the stairs, and
fills the once gloomy old place with a world of melody and
sunlight. Edith knows that she is beautiful! old Rachel has told
her so a thousand times, while Victor, the admiring valet, tells
her so every day, taking to himself no little credit for having
taught her, as he thinks, something of Parisian manners. Many are
the conversations she holds with him in his mother tongue, for she
has learned to speak that language with a fluency and readiness
which astonished her teachers and sometimes astonished herself. It
did not seem difficult to her, but rather like an old friend, and
Marie at first was written on every page of Ollendorff. But Marie
has faded now almost entirely from her mind, as have those other
mysterious memories which used to haunt her so. Nothing but the
hair hidden in the chest binds her to the past, and at this she
often looks, wondering where the head it once adorned is lying,
whether in the noisy city or on some grassy hillside where the
wild flowers she loves best are growing, and the birds whose songs
she tries to imitate, pause sometimes to warble a requiem for the
dead. Those tresses are beautiful, but not so beautiful as
Edith's. Her blue-black hair is thicker, glossier, more abundant
than in her childhood, and is worn in heavy braids or bands around
her head, adding greatly to her regal style of beauty. Edith has a
pardonable pride in her satin hair, and as she stands before the
mirror she steals an occasional glance at her crowning glory,
which is this afternoon arranged with far more care than usual;
not for any particular reason, but because she had a fancy that it
should be so.
They were going to visit Grassy Spring, a handsome country seat,
whose grounds lay contiguous to those of Collingwood, and whose
walls were in winter plainly discernible from the windows of the
upper rooms. It had recently been purchased and fitted up somewhat
after the style of Collingwood, and its owner was expected to take
possession in a few days. Edith's heart always beat faster when
she heard his name, for Arthur St. Claire was one of the links of
the past which still lingered in the remembrance. She had never
seen him since they parted in Albany, and after his leaving
college she lost sight of him entirely. Latterly, however, she had
heard from Grace, who knew but little more of him than herself,
that he was coming into their very neighborhood; that at he had
purchased Grassy Spring, and was to keep a kind of bachelor's hall
inasmuch as he had no wife, nor yet a prospect of any. So much
Edith knew and no more. She did not dare to speak of NINA, for
remembering her solemn promise, she had never breathed that name
to any living being. But the picture in the glass, as she ever
termed it, was not forgotten, and the deep interest she felt in
Grassy Spring was owing, in a great measure, to the fact that Nina
was in her mind intimately associated with the place. Sooner or
later she should meet her there, she was sure; should see those
golden curls again, and look into those soft blue eyes, whose
peculiar expression she remembered as if it were but yesterday
since they first met her view.
"It is strange your cousin never married; he must, by this time,
be nearly twenty-seven," she said to Grace, thinking the while of
Nina, and carelessly adjusting the jaunty hat upon her head.
"I think so too," returned Grace. "When quite young he was very
fond of the ladies, but I am told that he now utterly ignores
female society. Indeed, in his last letter to me, he states
distinctly that he wishes for no company except occasional calls
in a friendly way."
"Been disappointed, probably," suggested Edith, still thinking of
Nina, and wondering if Arthur did love her so very much as to put
faith in no one because of her treachery.
"It may be," said Grace; "and if so, isn't it a little queer that
he and Mr. Harrington should live so near each other; both so
eccentric; both so handsome and rich; both been disappointed; and
both so desirable as husbands?"
"Disappointed, Mrs. Atherton! Has Mr. Harrington been
disappointed?" and the rich bloom on Edith's cheek deepened to a
scarlet hue, which Grace did not fail to notice.
Her friendship for Edith Hastings had been a plant of sluggish
growth, for she could not, at once, bring herself to treat as an
equal one whom she formerly held as a servant, but time and
circumstances had softened her haughty pride, while Edith's
growing popularity, both in the village and at Collingwood,
awakened in her a deep interest for the young girl, who, meeting
her advances more than half the way, compelled her at last to
surrender, and the two were now as warm friends as individuals
well can be when there is between them so great a disparity of
years and so vast a difference in disposition. In Grace's heart
the olden love for Richard had not died out, and hitherto, it had
been some consolation to believe that no other ear would ever
listen to the words of love, to remember which continually would
assuredly drive her mad. But matters now were changed. Day by day,
week by week, month by month, and year by year, a rose had been
unfolding itself at Collingswood, and with every opening petal had
grown more and more precious to the blind man, until more than one
crone foretold the end; and Grace Atherton, grown fonder of gossip
than she was wont to be, listened to the tale, and watched, and
wondered, and wept, and still caressed and loved the bright,
beautiful girl, whom she dreaded as a powerful rival. This it was
which prompted her to speak of Richard's disappointment; and when
she saw the effect produced upon Edith, it emboldened her to go
on, and tell how, years and years ago, when Richard Harrington
first went to Europe, be had sued for the hand of a young girl
whom he met there, and who, while loving him dearly, shrank from
walking in his shadow, and gave herself to another.
"I must not tell you the name of this faithless girl," said Grace.
"It is sufficient that her refusal made Richard gloomy, eccentric
and misanthropical; in short, it nearly ruined him."
"My curse be on the woman's head who wrought this ruin, then,"
said Edith, her black eyes flashing with something of their former
She had forgotten the scene in the kitchen of Brier Hill when
Rachel whispered to her that Grace Atherton was in love, and she
had now no suspicion that the calm, white-faced woman sitting
there before her was the being she would curse. Neither was her
emotion caused, as Grace imagined, by any dread lest the early
love of Richard Harrington should stand between herself and him.
The thought that SHE could be his wife had never crossed her
brain, and her feelings were those of indignation toward a person
who could thus cruelly deceive a man as noble and good as Richard,
and of pity for him who had been so deceived.
"I will love him all the more and be the kinder to him for this
vile creature's desertion," she thought, as she beat the floor
nervously with the little prunella gaiter, and this was all the
good Grace Atherton had achieved.
Edith had cursed her to her face, and with a sigh audible only to
herself she arose and said laughingly, "It's time we were off, and
you've certainly admired that figure in the glass long enough.
What do you think of yourself, any way?"
"Why," returned Edith, in the same light, bantering tone, "I think
I'm rather jolie, as I used to say. I wonder where I picked up
that word. Victor says I must have had a French nurse, but I'm
sure I was too poor for that. I wish I knew where I did come from
and who I am. It's terrible, this uncertainty as to one's birth. I
may be marrying my brother one of these days, who knows?"
"See rather that you do not marry your father," retorted Grace,
following Edith as she tripped down the stairs and down the walk,
whipping the tufts of box as she went, and answering to Grace who
asked if she did not sometimes find her duties irksome at
Collingwood. "Never, never. The links of my chains are all made of
love and so they do not chafe. Then, too, when I remember what
Richard has done for me and how few sources of happiness he has, I
am willing to give my whole life to him, if need be. Why, Mrs.
Atherton, you can't imagine how his dark features light up with
joy, when on his return from riding or from transacting business
he hears me in the hall, and knows that I am there to meet him,"
and Edith's bright face sparkled and glowed as she thought how
often the blind man had blessed her with his sightless but
speaking eyes, when she gave up some darling project which would
take her from his side and stayed to cheer his solitude.
They had mounted their horses by this time, and at the speed which
characterized Edith's riding, dashed down the road and struck into
the woods, the shortest route to Grassy Spring. With the exception
of Collingwood, Grassy Spring was the handsomest country seat for
miles around, and thinking, as she continually did, of Nina, Edith
rather gave it the preference as she passed slowly through the
grounds and drew near to the building. Grace had seen the
housekeeper, Mrs. Johnson, a talkative old lady, who, big with the
importance of her office, showed them over the house, pointing out
this elegant piece of furniture and that handsome room with quite
as much satisfaction as if it had all belonged to herself.
In the third story, and only accessible by two flights of stairs
leading from Arthur's suite of rooms, was a large square
apartment, the door of which Mrs. Johnson unlocked with a
mysterious shake of the head, saying to the ladies, "The Lord only
knows what this place is for. Mr. St. Claire must have fixed it
himself for I found it locked tighter than a drum, but I
accidentally found on the but'ry shelf a rusty old key, that fits
it to a T. I've been in here once and bein' you're his kin,"
nodding to Grace, "and t'other one is with you, it can't do an
atom of harm for you to go. He's took more pains with this chamber
than with all the rest, and when I asked what 'twas for, he said
it was his "den," where he could hide if he wanted to."
"Don't go," whispered Edith, pulling at Grace's dress, "Mr. St.
Claire might not like it."
But Grace felt no such scruples, and was already across the
threshold, leaving Edith by the door.
"It's as bad to look in as to go in," thought Edith, and
conquering her curiosity with a mighty effort, she walked
resolutely down stairs, having seen nothing save that the carpet
was of the richest velvet and that the windows had across them
slender iron bars, rather ornamental than otherwise, and so
arranged as to exclude neither light nor air.
Grace, on the contrary, examined the apartment thoroughly,
thinking Mrs. Johnson right when she said that more pains had been
taken with this room than with all the others. The furniture was
of the most expensive and elegant kind. Handsome rosewood easy-
chairs and sofas covered with rich satin damask, the color and
pattern corresponding with the carpet and curtains. Ottomans,
divans and footstools were scattered about--pictures and mirrors
adorned the walls, while in one corner, covered with a misty veil
of lace, hung the portrait of a female in the full, rich bloom of
womanhood, her light chestnut curls falling about her uncovered
neck, and her dreamy eyes of blue having in them an expression
much like that which Edith had once observed in Nina's peculiar
eyes. The dress was quite old-fashioned, indicating that the
picture must have been taken long ago, and while Grace gazed upon
it her wonder grew as to whose it was and whence it came.
"Look at the bed," said Mrs. Johnson, and touching Grace's elbow,
she directed her attention to a side recess, hidden from view by
drapery of exquisite lace, and containing a single bed, which
might have been intended for an angel, so pure and white it looked
with its snowy covering.
"What does it mean?" asked Grace, growing more and more
bewildered, while Mrs. Johnson replied in her favorite mode of
"The Lord only knows--looks as if he was going to make it a prison
for some princess; but here's the queerest thing of all," and she
thumped upon a massive door, which was locked and barred, and
beyond which her prying eyes had never looked.
Over the door was a ventilator, and Grace, quite as curious as
Mrs. Johnson, suggested that a chair or table be brought, upon
which she, being taller than her companion, might stand and
possibly obtain a view.
"What DO you see?" asked Mrs. Johnson, as Grace, on tip-toe,
peered into what seemed to be a solitary cell, void of furniture
of every kind, save a little cot, corresponding in size with the
fairy bed in the recess, but in naught else resembling it, for its
coverings were of the coarsest, strongest materials, and the
pillows scanty and small.
Acting from a sudden impulse, Grace determined not to tell Mrs.
Johnson what she saw, and stepping down from the table, which she
quickly rolled back to its place, she said,
"It's nothing but a closet, where, I dare say, Mr. St. Claire will
keep his clothes when he occupies his den. You must not let any
one else in here, for Arthur might be offended."
Mrs. Johnson promised obedience, and turning the rusty key,
followed her visitor down the two long flights of stairs, she,
returning to her duties, while Grace went to the pleasant library,
where, with her hat and whip upon the floor, Edith sat reading the
book she had ventured to take from the well-filled shelves, and in
which she had been so absorbed as not to hear the slight rustling
in the adjoining room, where a young man was standing in the
enclosure of the deep bay window, and gazing intently at her. He
had heard from Mrs. Johnson's daughter that some ladies were going
over the house, and not caring to meet them, he stepped into the
recess of the window just as Edith entered the library. As the eye
of the stranger fell upon her, he came near uttering an
exclamation of surprise that anything so graceful, so queenly, and
withal so wondrously beautiful, should be found in Shannondale,
which, with the city ideas still clinging to him, seemed like an
out-of-the-way place, where the girls were buxom, good-natured and
hearty, just as he remembered Kitty Maynard to have been, and not
at all like this creature of rare loveliness sitting there before
him, her head inclined gracefully to the volume she was reading,
and showing to good advantage her magnificent hair.
"Who can she be?" he thought, and a thrill of unwonted admiration
ran through his veins as Edith raised for a moment her large eyes
of midnight blackness, and from his hiding-place he saw how soft
and mild they were in their expression, "Can Grace have spirited
to her retreat some fair nymph for company? Hark! I hear her
voice, and now for the solution of the mystery."
Standing back a little further, so as to escape observation, the
young man waited till Grace Atherton came near.
"Here you are," she said, "poring over a book as usual. I should
suppose you'd had enough of that to do in reading to Mr.
Harrington--German Philosophy, too! Will wonders never cease?
Arthur was right, I declare, when he dubbed you Metaphysics!"
"Edith Hastings!" The young man said it beneath his breath, while
he involuntarily made a motion forward.
"Can it be possible, and yet now that I know it, I see the little
black-eyed elf in every feature. Well may the blind man be proud
of his protege. She might grace the saloons of Versailles, and
rival the Empress herself!"
Thus far he had soliloquised, when something Grace was saying
caught his ear and chained his attention at once.
"Oh, Edith," she began, "you don't know what you lost by being
over squeamish. Such a perfect jewel-box of a room, with the
tiniest single bed of solid mahogany! Isn't it queer that Arthur
should have locked it up, and isn't it fortunate for us that Mrs.
Johnson found that rusty old key which must have originally
belonged to the door of the Den, as she says he calls it?"
Anxiously the young man awaited Edith's answer, his face aglow
with indignation and his eyes flashing with anger.
"Fortunate for YOU, perhaps," returned Edith, tying on her riding-
hat, "but I wouldn't have gone in for anything."
"Why not?" asked Grace, walking into the hall.
"Because," said Edith, "Mr. St. Claire evidently did not wish any
one to go in, and I think Mrs. Johnson was wrong in opening the
"What a little Puritan it is!" returned Grace, playfully caressing
the rosy cheeks of Edith, who had now joined her in the hall.
"Arthur never will know, for I certainly shall not tell either him
or any one, and I gave Mrs. Johnson some very wholesome advice
upon that subject. There she is now in the back-yard. If you like,
we'll go round and give her a double charge."
The young man saw them as they turned the corner of the building,
and gliding from his post, he hurried up the stairs and entering
the Den, locked the door, and throwing himself upon the sofa,
groaned aloud, while the drops of perspiration oozed out upon his
forehead, and stood thickly about his lips. Then his mood changed,
and pacing the floor he uttered invectives against the meddlesome
Mrs. Johnson, who, by this one act, had proved that she could not
be trusted. Consequently SHE must not remain longer at Grassy
Spring, and while in the yard below Mrs. Johnson was promising
Grace "to be as still as the dead," Arthur St. Claire was planning
her dismissal. This done, and his future course decided upon, the
indignant young man felt better, and began again to think of Edith
Hastings, whom he admired for her honorable conduct in refusing to
enter a place where she had reason to think she was not wanted.
"Noble, high-principled girl," he said. "I'm glad I told Mr.
Harrington what I did before seeing her. Otherwise he might have
suspected that her beauty had something to do with my offer, and
so be jealous lest I had designs upon his singing-bird, as he
called her. But alas, neither beauty, nor grace, nor purity can
now avail with me, miserable wretch that I am," and again that
piteous moan, as of a soul punished before its time, was heard in
the silent room.
But hark, what sound is that, which, stealing through the iron-
latticed windows, drowns the echo of that moan, and makes the
young man listen? It is Edith Hastings singing one of her wild
songs, and the full rich melody of her wonderful voice falls upon
his ear, Arthur St. Claire bows his head upon his hands and weeps,
for the music carries him back to the long ago when he had no
terrible secret haunting every hour, but was as light-hearted as
the maiden whom, as she gallops away on her swift-footed Arabian,
he looks after, with wistful eyes, watching her until the sweep of
her long riding-skirt and the waving of her graceful plumes
disappear beneath the shadow of the dim woods, where night is
beginning to fall. Slowly, sadly, he turns from the window--
merrily, swiftly, the riders dash along, and just us the clock
strikes six, their panting steeds pause at the entrance to
EDITH AT HOME.
It was too late for Grace to call, and bidding her companion good-
bye, she galloped down the hill, while Edith, in a meditative
mood, suffered her favorite Bedouin to walk leisurely up the
carriage road which led to the rear of the house.
"Victor Dupres!" she exclaimed, as a tall figure emerged from the
open door and came forward to meet her. "Where did you come from?"
"From New York," he replied, bowing very low, "Will Mademoiselle
alight?" and taking the little foot from out the shoe he lifted
her carefully from the saddle.
"Is HE here?" she asked, and Victor replied,
"Certainement; and has brought home a fresh recruit of the blues,
too, judging from the length and color of his face."
"Why did he go to New York?" interrupted Edith, who had puzzled
her brain not a little with regard to the business which had taken
Richard so suddenly from home.
"As true as I live I don't know," was Victor's reply. "For once
he's kept dark even to me, scouring all the alleys, and lanes, and
poor houses in the city, leaving me at the hotel, and taking with
him some of those men with brass buttons on their coats. One day
when he came back he acted as if he were crazy and I saw the great
tears drop on the table over which he was leaning, then when I
asked 'if he'd heard bad news,' he answered, 'No, joyful news. I'm
perfectly happy now. I'm ready to go home,' and he did seem happy,
until we drove up to the gate and you didn't come to meet him.
'Where's Edith?' he asked, and when Mrs. Matson said you were out,
his forehead began to tie itself up in knots, just as it does when
he is displeased. It's my opinion, Miss Edith, that you humor him
altogether too much, You are tied to him as closely as a mother to
Edith sighed, not because she felt the bonds to which Victor had
alluded, but because she reproached herself for not having been
there to welcome the blind man home when she knew how much he
thought of these little attentions.
"I'll make amends though, now," she said, and remembering the
story of his disappointment, her heart swelled with a fresh
feeling of pity for the helpless Richard, who, sitting before the
blazing fire in the library, did not hear the light step coming so
softly toward him.
All the way from the station, and indeed all the way from New
York, he had pictured to himself Edith's sylph-like form running
down the steps to meet him; had felt her warm hands in his, heard
her sweet voice welcoming him home again, and the world around him
was filled with daylight, but Edith was the sun which shone upon
his darkness. She was dearer to him now, if possible, than when he
left Collingwood, for, during his absence he had learned that
which, if she knew it, would bind her to him by cords of gratitude
too strong to be lightly broken. SHE owed everything to him, and
he, alas, he groaned when he thought WHAT he owed to her, but he
loved her all the same, and this it was which added to the
keenness of his disappointment when among the many feet which
hastened out to meet him, he listened for hers in vain. He knew it
was very pleasant in his little library whither Victor led him;
very pleasant to sit in his accustomed chair, and feel the fire-
light shining on his face, but there was something missing, and
the blue veins were swelling on his forehead, and the lines
deepening about his mouth, when a pair of soft, white arms were
wound about his neck, two soft white hands patted his bearded
cheeks, and a voice, whose every tone made his heart throb and
beat with ecstasy, murmured in his ear,
"Dear Mr. Richard, I am so glad you've come home, and so sorry I
was not here to meet you. I did not expect you to-night. Forgive
me, won't you? There, let me smooth the ugly wrinkles away, they
make you look so cross and old," and the little fingers he vainly
tried to clasp, wandered caressingly over the knit brows, while,
for the first time since people began to call her Miss Hastings,
Edith's lips touched his.
Nor was she sorry when she saw how beautiful the lovelight broke
all over the dark, stern face, irradiating every feature, and
giving to it an expression almost divine.
"Kiss me again, Birdie," he said. "It is not often you grant me
such a treat," and he held her arms about his neck until she
pressed her lips once more against his own.
Then he released her, and making her sit down beside him, rested
his hand upon her shining hair, while he asked her how she had
busied herself in his absence, if she had missed the old dark
cloud, a bit, and if she was not sorry to have him back.
He know just what her answer would be, and when it was given, he
took her face between his hands, and turning it up toward him,
said, "I'd give all Collingwood, darling, just to look once into
your eyes and see if---" then, apparently changing his mind, he
added, "see if you are pleased with what I've brought you, look;"
and taking from his pocket a square box he displayed to her view
an entire set of beautiful pearls. "I wanted to buy diamonds, but
Victor said pearls were more appropriate for a young girl like
you. Are they becoming?" and he placed some of them amid the
braids of her dark hair.
Like all girls of seventeen, Edith was in raptures, nor could he
make her sit still beside him until, divested of her riding habit,
she had tried the effect of the delicate ornaments, bracelets,
ear-rings, necklace and all.
"I am so glad you like them," he said, and he did enjoy it very
much, sitting there and listening to her as she danced about the
room, uttering little girlish screams of delight, and asking
Victor, when at last he came in--"if she wasn't irresistible?"
Victor FELT that she was, and in his polite French way he
complimented her, until Richard bade him stop, telling him "she
was already spoiled with flattery."
The pearls being laid aside and Victor gone, Edith resumed her
accustomed seat upon a stool at Richard's feet, and folding both
hands upon his knee, looked into his face, saying, "Well,
monsieur, why did you go off to New York so suddenly? I think you
might tell me now unless it's something I ought not to know."
He hesitated a moment as if uncertain whether to tell her or not;
then said to her abruptly, "You've heard, I believe, of the little
child whom I saved from drowning?"
"Yes," she answered. "Don't you know I told you once how I used to
worship you because you were so brave. I remember, too, of praying
every night in my childish way that you might some day find the
"Edith, I have found her," and the nervous hands pressed tenderly
upon the beautiful head almost resting in his lap.
"Found her!" and Edith sprang to her feet, her large eyes growing
larger, but having in them no shadow of suspicion. "Where did you
find her? Where is she now? What is her name? Why didn't you bring
her home?" and out of breath with her rapid questioning, Edith sat
down again, while Richard laughingly replied, "Where shall I begin
to answer all your queries? Shall I take them in order? I found
out all about her in New York."
"That explains your scouring the alleys and lanes as Victor said
you did," interrupted Edith, and Richard rejoined rather sharply,
"What does HE know about it?"
"Nothing, nothing," returned Edith, anxious to shield Victor from
his master's anger. "I asked him what you did in New York, and he
told me that. Go on--what is her name?"
"Eloise Temple. Her mother was a Swede, and her father an
American, much older than his wife."
Edith repealed it three times.
"Where have I heard that name before? Oh, I know. I heard Kitty
Maynard telling the story to Mrs. Atherton. Where is she, did you
say, and how does she look?"
"She is with the family who adopted her as their own, for her
mother is dead. Eloise is an orphan, Edith," and again the broad
hand touched the shining hair, pityingly this time, while the
voice which spoke of the mother was sad and low.
Suddenly a strange, fanciful idea flashed on Edith's mind, and
looking into Richard's face she asked, "How old is Eloise?"
"Seventeen, perhaps. Possibly, though, she's older."
"And you, Mr. Harrington--how old are you, please? I'll never tell
as long as I live, if you don't want me to."
She knew he was becoming rather sensitive with regard to his age,
but she thought he would not mind HER knowing, never dreaming that
SHE of all others was the one from whom he would, if possible,
conceal the fact that he was thirty-eight. Still he told her
unreservedly, asking her the while if she did not consider him
almost her grandfather.
"Why, no," she answered; "you don't look old a bit. You haven't a
single grey hair. _I_ think you are splendid, and so I'm sure did
the mother of Eloise; didn't she?" and the roguish black eyes
looked up archly into the blind man's face.
Remembering what Grace had said of his love affair in Europe many
years since, and adding to that the evident interest he felt in
little Eloise Temple, the case was clear to her as daylight. The
Swedish maiden was the girl who jilted Richard Harrington, and
hence his love for Eloise, for she knew he did love her from his
manner when speaking of her and the pains he had taken to find
her. He had not answered her last question yet, for he did not
understand its drift, and when at last he spoke he said,
"Mrs. Temple esteemed me highly, I believe; and I admired her very
much. She had the sweetest voice I ever heard, not even excepting
yours, which is something like it."
Edith nodded to the bright face on the mirror opposite, and the
bright face nodded back as much was to say, "I knew 'twas so."
"Was she really handsome, this Mrs. Temple?" she asked, anxious to
know how Richard Harrington's early love had looked.
Instinctively the hands of the blind man met together round
Edith's graceful neck, as he told her how beautiful that Swedish
mother was, with her glossy, raven hair, and her large, soft,
lustrous eyes, and as he talked, there crept into Edith's heart a
strange, inexplicable affection for that fair young Swede, who
Richard said was not as happy with her father-husband as she
should have been, and who, emigrating to another land, had died of
a homesick, broken heart.
"I am sorry I cursed her to-day," thought Edith, her tears falling
fast to the memory of the lonely, homesick woman, the mother of
"Had she married Richard," she thought, "he would not now be
sitting here in his blindness, for SHE would be with him, and
Eloise, too, or some one very much like her. I wish she were here
now," and after a moment she asked why he had not brought the
maiden home with him. "I should love her as much as my sister,"
she said; "and you'd be happier with two of us, wouldn't you?"
"No," he answered; "one young girl is enough for any house. I
couldn't endure two."
"Then _I_ ought to go away," said Edith promptly, her bosom
swelling with a dread lest she should eventually have to go.
"Eloise has certainly the best right here. You loved her mother,
yon know, and you'd rather have her than me, wouldn't you?"
She held both his hands now within her own. She bent her face upon
them, and he felt her tears trickling through his fingers. Surely
he was not to blame if, forgetting himself for the moment, he
wound his arms about her and hugging her to his bosom, told her
that of all the world SHE was the one he most wanted there at
Collingwood, there just where she was now, her head upon his
shoulder, her cheek against his own. 0nce she felt slightly
startled, his words were so fraught with tender passion, but
regarding him as her father, or at least her elder brother, she
could not believe he intended addressing her save as his sister or
his child, and releasing herself from his embrace, she slid back
upon her stool and said, "I'm glad you're willing I should stay.
It would kill me to go from Collingwood now. I've been so happy
here, and found in you so kind a FATHER."
She WOULD say that last word, and she did, never observing that
Richard frowned slightly as if it were to him an unwelcome sound.
Presently Edith went on, "I think, though, this Eloise ought to
come, too, no matter how pleasant a home she has. It is her duty
to care for you who lost your sight for her. Were I in her place,
I should consider no sacrifice too great to atone for the past. I
would do everything in the world you asked of me, and then not
half repay you."
"Every thing, Edith? Did you say every thing?" and it would seem
that the blind eyes had for once torn away their veil, so lovingly
and wistfully they rested upon the bowed head of the young girl,
who, without looking up, answered back,
"Yes, every thing. But I'm glad I am not this Eloise."
"Why, Edith, why?" and the voice which asked the question was
mournful in its tone.
"Because," returned Edith, "I should not care to be under so great
obligations to any one. The burden would be oppressive. I should
be all the while wondering what more I could do, while you, too,
would be afraid that the little kindnesses which now are prompted
in a great measure by love would be rendered from a sense of
gratitude and duty. Wouldn't it be so, Mr. Richard?"
"Yes, yes," he whispered. "You are right. I should be jealous that
what my heart craved as love would be only gratitude. I am glad
you suggested this, Edith; very, very, glad, and now let us talk
no more of Eloise."
"Ah, but I must," cried Edith. "There are so many things I want to
know, and you've really told me nothing. Had she brothers or
sisters? Tell me that, please."
"There was a half sister, I believe, hut she is dead," said
Richard. "They are all dead but this girl. She is alive and happy,
and sometime I will tell you more of her, but not now. I am sorry
I told you what I have."
"So am I if I can't hear the whole," returned Edith, beginning to
"I DID intend to tell you all when I began," said Richard, "but
I've changed my mind, and Edith, I have faith to believe you will
not repeat to any one our conversation. Neither must you tease me
about this girl. It is not altogether an agreeable subject."
Edith saw that he was in earnest, and knowing how useless it would
be to question him further, turned her back upon him and gazing
steadily into the fire, was wondering what made him so queer, when
by way of diverting her mind, he said, "Did Victor tell you that
Mr. St. Claire came with us all the way from New York?"
"Mr. St. Claire, no," and Edith brightened at once, forgetting all
about Eloise Temple. "Why then didn't Mrs. Atherton and I see him?
We went over the house this afternoon. It's a splendid place, most
as handsome us Collingwood."
"How would you like to live there?" asked Richard, playfully. "One
of the proposed conditions on which I consented to receive you,
was that when Mr. St. Claire had a home of his own he was to take
you off my hands; at least, that was what he said, standing here
where you sit; and on my way from New York he reminded me of it,
inquiring for little Metaphysics, and asking if I were ready to
part with her."
"Do you wish me to go and let Eloise come?" Edith asked,
pettishly, and Richard replied,
"No, Edith, I need you more than Arthur ever can, and you'll stay
with me, too, stay always, won't you? Promise that you will."
"Of course I shall," she answered. "I'll stay until I'm married,
as I suppose I shall he sometime; everybody is."
Richard tried to be satisfied with this reply, but it grated
harshly, and it seemed to him that a shadow deeper, darker than
any he had ever known, was creeping slowly over him, and that
Arthur St. Claire's was the presence which brought the threatening
cloud. He knew this half jealous feeling was unworthy of him, and
with a mighty effort he shook it off and saying to Edith, calmly,
"Mr. St. Claire asked many questions concerning you and your
attainments, and when I spoke of your passion for drawing,
lamenting that since Miss Chapin's departure, there was in town no
competent instructor, he offered to be your teacher, provided you
would come up there twice a week. He is a very sensible young man,
for when I hesitated he guessed at once that I was revolving the
propriety of your going alone to the house of a bachelor, where
there were no females except the servants, and he said to me 'You
can come with her, if you like.'"
"So it's more proper for a young lady to be with two gentlemen
than with one, is it?" and Edith laughed merrily, at the same time
asking if Richard had accepted the offer.
"I did, provided it met your approbation," was the reply, and as
Victor just then appeared, the conversation for the present
But neither Eloise nor Arthur left the minds of either Richard or
Edith, and while in her sleep that night the latter dreamed of the
gentle Eloise, who called her sister, and from whom Arthur St.
Claire strove to part her, the former tossed restlessly upon his
pillow, moaning to him-self, "I am glad I did not tell her. She
must answer me for love and not for gratitude."
MATTERS AT GRASSY SPRING.
The next morning as the family at Collingwood sat at their rather
late breakfast a note was brought to Richard, who immediately
handed it to Edith. Breaking the seal, and glancing at the name at
the end, she exclaimed, "It's from Mr. St. Claire, and he says,--
let me see:
GRASSY SPRING, Oct. 18--
"Dear Sir:--A wholly unexpected event makes it necessary for me to
be absent from home for the next few weeks. During this time my
house will be shut up, and I shall be very glad if in her daily
rides Miss Hastings will occasionally come round this way and see
that everything is straight. I would like much to give the keys
into her charge, knowing as I do that I can trust her. The books
in my library are at her disposal, as is also the portfolio of
drawings, which I will leave upon the writing table.
"When I return, and have become somewhat domesticated, I hope to
have her for my pupil, as proposed yesterday. Please let me know
at once if she is willing to take charge of my keys.
ARTHUR ST. CLAIRE."
"What does he mean?" asked Edith, as she finished reading this
note aloud. "What does he wish me to do?"
"Why," returned Richard, "He is to shut up his house, which, being
brick, will naturally become damp, and I suppose he wishes you to
air it occasionally, by opening the windows and letting in the
"Wishes me, in short, to perform a servant's duty," said Edith,
haughtily. "Very well, I'll do it. Perhaps it will pay my TUITION
in part; who knows?" and in spite of Richard's remonstrances, she
seized a pen and dashed off the following:
"Mr. St. Claire:
"Dear Sir,--Miss Hastings accepts the great honor of looking after
your house, and will see that nothing gets mouldy during your
In haste, RICHARD HARRINGTON, "Per Edith Hastings."
"P.S. Will you have her CLEAN it before you return?"
"Edith!" and Richard's voice was very stern. "Arthur St. Claire
never intended to insult you and you shall NOT send that note.
Tear it up at once."
Edith stood a moment irresolute, while her eyes flashed with
indignation, but she had been too long accustomed to obey the man,
who, groping his way to her side, stood commandingly before her to
resist his authority now, and mechanically tearing the note in
pieces, she tossed them into the fire.
"Victor," said Richard, wishing to spare Edith the mortification
of writing a second answer, "tell the man from Grassy Spring that
Mr. St. Claire can leave his keys at Collingwood."
Victor departed with the message, and Edith, somewhat recovered
from her pet, said,
"Isn't it queer, though, that Mr. St. Claire should ask to leave
his keys with me? One would suppose he'd trust his cousin to
rummage his goods and chattels sooner than a stranger."
"He has his reasons, I dare say, for preferring you," returned
Richard, adding that he himself would go with her some day to
Grassy Spring, and assist her in airing the house.
Toward the middle of the afternoon, the keys of Collingwood were
delivered to Edith, together with a sealed note, containing a
"The iron broken key unlocks the DEN."
Had Arthur wished to puzzle Edith he could not have done so more
effectually than he did by these few words.
"What do I care," she said, "which unlocks the Den. I certainly
should not cross its threshold were the door left wide open. What
does he mean?" and she was still wondering over the message when
Grace Atherton was announced.
As she grew older Grace assumed a more familiar, youthful manner
than had characterized her early womanhood, and now, tossing her
riding hat and whip upon the bed, she sank into Edith's easy chair
and began: "The funniest thing imaginable has happened at Grassy
Spring. His Royal Highness, Lord St. Claire, has flown into a
violent passion with Mrs. Johnson for having shown us into that
"Shown YOU, you mean. I didn't go in," interrupted Richard, and
Grace continued, "Well, shown ME, then, though I think you might
at least share in the disgrace. I never saw Arthur as indignant as
he was last night when he called on me. 'Women were curious,
prying creatures, anyway,' he said, 'and he had no faith in any of
"Did he say so?" asked Edith, and Grace replied, "Well, not
exactly that. He did make a few exceptions, of which you are one.
Mrs. Johnson must have told him that you refused to enter. What
harm was there, any way, and what's the room for? I'm beginning to
grow curious. Here, he's dismissed Mrs. Johnson and her daughter,
telling her if he could not trust her in small matters he could
not in those of greater importance, and the good soul has taken
the afternoon express for Boston, where she formerly lived. She
says he paid her three months' extra wages, so he was liberal in
that respect; but the strangest part of all is that he is going to
Florida, where he has some claim to or owns a plantation of
negroes, and he intends to bring a whole cargo of them to Grassy
Spring--housekeeper, cook, chambermaid, coachman, gardener, and
all. Don't you think he's crazy?"
Edith thought the facts would warrant such a conclusion, and Grace
went on. "I offered to take charge of his house, telling him it
ought not to be shut up for several weeks, but he declined so
haughtily, saying he should leave the keys with someone less
curious than myself, and asked if I supposed YOU would be offended
if he offered them to you. I told him no, and I dare say he will
send them here, if indeed, he has not already done so. Has he?"
she asked, quickly, as she saw a peculiar smile on Edith's lip.
"Yes," Edith answered, feeling the while SO glad that Richard had
prevented her from sending that insulting note.
She knew now why the keys were given to her, and the fact that
Arthur St. Claire trusted HER even before his own cousin, left a
warm, happy spot in her heart. Upon second thought this act was
not displeasing to Grace herself. It evinced a preference in
Arthur for Edith Hastings, and on her way home she busied herself
in building castles of the future, when Edith, as the wife of
Arthur and mistress of Grassy Spring, would cease to be her rival.
As Grace had said, Mrs. Johnson and Rose, her daughter, were
dismissed, the house was shut up, the owner gone, the keys in
Edith's possession, and for many days the leaves of crimson and of
gold drifted down upon the walks and lay piled beneath the windows
and upon the marble steps, where they rested undisturbed, save
when the evening wind whirled them in fantastic circles and then
sent them back again to their first lodging place.
Occasionally Edith, on her spirited Bedouin, rode slowly by,
glancing at the grounds and garden, where so many flowers were
blossoming for naught, and then gazing curiously at the latticed
windows looking out toward Collingwood. She knew which ones they
were, though the blinds were closed tightly over them, and she
wondered if the mystery of that room would ever be revealed to
her. Once, as she was riding by, she saw a stranger standing upon
the steps of the front door and pulling vehemently at the silver
knob which brought him no response. Reining Bedouin at the gate
the waited until the gentleman, tired of ringing, came slowly down
the walk, apparently absorbed in some perplexing thought. He did
not see her until almost upon her, when, bowing politely, he said,
"I beg your pardon, Miss, can you tell me where Mr. St. Claire's
to be found?"
"He has gone to Florida," she answered, "and will not return for
"Gone to Florida, and I not know it! That's very queer," and the
stranger bit his lip with vexation.
"Did you wish particularly to see him?" asked Edith, and he
"Yes, a friend lies very sick in the--" he paused a moment, looked
searchingly at Edith, and added, "in Worcester. We can do nothing
with her, and I have come for him."
Edith thought of NINA, thought of the Den, thought of everything,
except that the man seemed waiting for her to speak.
"Won't be home for some weeks," he said at last, as she continued
silent, "And you don't know where a letter would reach him?"
"No, sir, but I will deliver any message from you as soon as he
The stranger scrutinized her closely a second time ere he replied,
"Tell him Griswold has been here and wishes him to come to
Worcester at once."
Edith was mortal, nay more, was a genuine descendant of mother
Eve, and with a feeling akin to what that fair matron must have
felt when she wondered how those apples did taste, she said to the
man, "Who shall I say is sick?"
"A friend," was the laconic reply, as he walked rapidly away,
muttering to himself, "A pretty scrape St. Claire is getting
himself into. Poor Arthur, poor Arthur."
It would seen that Edith, too, was imbued with something of the
spirit which prompted him to say, "Poor Arthur," for she
involuntarily sighed, and casting another glance at the windows of
the den, gave loose rein to Bedouin and galloped swiftly down the
The next morning was clear and bright, and as Richard felt the
bracing air, he said to her, "We will visit Grassy Spring to-day.
It's time you gave it a little air."
The carriage was accordingly brought out, and in half an hour's
time Richard and Edith were treading the deserted rooms, into
which they let the warm sunlight by opening wide the windows, all
save those of one chamber. Edith did not go near the Den, and she
marvelled that Arthur should have given her its key, indicating
which it was. She did not know that the rather peculiar young man
had lain for her a snare, by which means he would surely know how
far her curiosity had led her. He might have spared himself the
trouble, for Edith was the soul of honor, and nothing could have
induced her to cross the proscribed threshold.
"It's very pleasant here, isn't it?" Richard asked, as they went
from one room to another, and he felt the soft carpets yield to
"Yes," she answered; "but not as pleasant as Collingwood. I like
my own home best," and she looked into his face in time to catch
the expression she loved so well--an expression of trusting,
childlike happiness, touching to behold in a strong man.
He liked to know that Edith was contented with Collingwood;
contented with him; and he hoped it would be so always. He could
not bear the thought that he had suffered every fibre of his heart
to twine and intertwine themselves around her, only to be one day
broken and cast bleeding at his feet. But somehow, here at Grassy
Spring, in the home of Arthur St. Claire, he felt oppressed with a
dread lest this thing should be; and to Edith, when she asked what
made him so pale, he said,
"It's close in here, I think. Let's hurry out into the open air."
She led him to an iron chair beneath a forest maple, and leaving
him there alone went back to close the windows she had opened. One
of those in the drawing-room resisted all her efforts for a time,
but came down at last with a bang, causing her to start, and hit
her foot against a frame which she had not before observed, but
which she now saw was a portrait standing in the dark corner with
its face against the wall.
"Truly there can be no harm in looking at this," she thought, and
turning it to the light she stepped back to examine it.
'Twas the picture of a black-eyed, black-haired child--a little
girl, scarcely three years old, judging from the baby face, and
the fat, dimpled hands turning so earnestly the leaves of a
picture book. One tiny foot was bare, and one encased in a red
"Dear, darling baby," she said aloud, feeling an irresistible
desire to hug the little creature to her bosom. "Who are you,
baby? Where are you now? and how came you with Mr. St. Claire?"
She asked these questions aloud, and was answered by Richard
calling from his seat beneath the maple to know why she tarried so
long. With one more lingering glance at the infant, she locked the
doors and hastened out to her blind charge. On three or four other
occasions she came alone to Grassy Spring, opening the doors and
windows, and feasting her eyes upon the beautiful little child.
Edith was wonderfully in love with that picture, and many a theory
she built as to the original. Grace had told her that Arthur had
no sister, and this, while it tended to deepen the mystery,
increased her interest.
"I'll ask him about her when he gets home," she thought; and she
waited anxiously for his return, which occurred much sooner than
It was a cold, raw November day, and the rain was beating against
the windows of the little room she called her boudoir, and where
she now sat sewing, when Victor, who had been sent to Grassy
Spring to see that the storm did not penetrate the western blinds,
appeared before her, ejaculating, "Mon Dieu, Miss Hastings. What
do you think there is over yonder at Grassy Spring? A whole swarm
of niggers, and Guinea niggers at that, I do believe. Such
outlandish specimens! There they sit bent up double with the cold
and hovering round the kitchen fire, some on the floor, some on
chairs, and one has actually taken the tin dish pan and turned it
bottom side up for a stool. They come from Florida, they say, and
they sorter 'long to Marsa St. Claire. They called me MARSA, too,
and when Mr. St. Claire asked me how my MASTER and young lady
were, the old she one who sat smoking in the corner, with a turban
on her head as high as a church steeple, took the pipe from her
month and actually SWORE.
"Swore, Victor!" exclaimed Edith, who had listened in amazement to
"I don't know what you call it but swearing; says she, 'A white
nigger, Lor'-a-mighty,' and the whole bevy of them opened their
ranks for time to sit down in their circle--kind of a fellow
feeling, you know," and Victor endeavored to hide the shock his
pride had received by laughing loudly at the negroes' mistake.
"How did you get in?" asked Edith. "He must have been there before
"He had a key to the back door," returned Victor, "and I gave him
up mine. He wants you to send the others. Shall I take them over?"
"Yes--no--I will go myself," said Edith, remembering Mr. Griswold,
from Worcester, and the message she was to deliver.
"YOU go in this rain! Mr. Harrington won't let you," said Victor,
and Edith rejoined, "I shan't ask him. I've been out in worse
storms than this. Bring up Bedouin."
Victor was never happier than when obeying Edith, and in an
inconceivably short space of time Bedouin stood at the back
piazza, where his mistress mounted him and rode away. It was not
until she had left the Collingwood grounds and was out upon the
main road, that she began to feel any doubts as to the propriety
of what she was doing. She had not seen Arthur St. Claire for
eight years. She must, of course, introduce herself and would he
not marvel to see her there in that rain, when a servant could
have brought the keys its well. And the message, too--Victor might
have delivered that had she been willing to trust him with it, but
she was not. Arthur St. Claire had a secret of some kind; Mr.
Griswold was concerned in it, and it was to guard this secret from
all curious ears that she was doing what she was. Having thus
settled the matter to her mind, Edith rode on, unmindful of the
rain, which had partially subsided, but still dripped from her
black plumes and glanced off from her velvet habit. A slight
nervous trepidation seized her, however, as she drew near to
Grassy Spring, and noticed the look of surprise with which a
stalwart African, standing by the gate, regarded her. Riding up to
him she said, good-naturedly, "How d'ye, uncle?" having learned so
much of negro dialect from Rachel, who was a native of Georgia.
Immediately the ivories of the darkie became visible, and with a
not ungraceful bow, he answered, "Jest tolable, thankee;" while
his eyes wandered up the road, as if in quest of something they
evidently did not find, for bending forward helooked curiously
behind Edith, saying by way of apology, "I'se huntin' for yer
little black boy; whar is he?"
"Where's who?" and in her fright, lest some one of the little
"Guinea niggers" about whom Victor had told her, might be seated
behind her, Edith leaped with on bound form the saddle, nearly
upsetting the young man hastening out to meet her.
Southern bred as the negro was he could not conceive of a white
lady's riding without an escort, and failing to see said escort,
he fancied it must be some diminutive child perched upon the
horse, and was looking to find him, feeling naturally curious to
know how the negroes of Yankee land differed from those of
Florida. All this Edith understood afterward, but she was too much
excited now to thing of any thing except that she had probably
made herself ridiculous in the eyes of Arthur St. Claire, who
adroitly rescued her from a fall in the mud, by catching her about
the waist and clasping one of her hands.
"Miss Hastings, I believe," he said, when he saw that she had
regained her equilibrium, "This is a pleasure I hardly expected in
this storm,--but come in. You are drenched with rain;" and still
holding her hand, he led her into the library, where a cheerful
fire was blazing.
Drawing a chair before it he made her sit down, while he untied
and removed her hat, brushing the drops of rain from her hair, and
doing it in so quiet, familiar, and withal so womanly a manner
that Edith began to feel quite at home with him, and to think she
had not done so foolish a thing, after all, in coming there. When
sure she was comfortable, he drew a chair opposite to her, and for
the first time since they met, she had a chance to see what
changes eight years had wrought in one she thought so handsome, as
a youth. He was larger, more fully developed than when she parted
from him in Albany, and it seemed to her as if he were taller,
too. He was certainly manlier in his appearance, and the incipient
mustache at which her nose was once contemptuously elevated, was
now rich, brown beard, adding, as some would think, to the beauty
of his face, the pride of his barber, and the envy of his less
fortunate comrades. He was a remarkably fine looking man,
handsomer even than Richard Harrington, inasmuch as he had not
about him the air of helplessness which characterized the blind
man. The same old mischievous twinkle lurked in the soft brown
eyes, and the corners of the mouth curved just as they used to do.
But his smile was not as frequent or as joyous as of old, while on
his brow there was a shadow resting--an expression of sad
disquiet, as if thus early he had drank deeply from the cup of
sorrow. Amid his wavy hair a line of silver was now and then
discernible, and Edith thought how much faster he had grown old
than Richard Harrington. And well be might, for Richard, in his
blindness was happier far than Arthur St. Claire, blessed with
health, and riches, and eyesight, and youth. He had no secret
eating to his very heart's core, and with every succeeding year
magnifying itself into a greater evil than it really was, as an
error concealed is sure to do. Besides that, Richard had Edith,
while Arthur, alas, poor Arthur, he had worse than nothing; and as
he looked across the hearth to where Edith sat, he ceased to
wonder that one who for eight years had basked in the sunshine of
her presence, should be as young, as vigorous and happy as Richard
had appeared to him. But he must not think of this. He professed
to be a woman-hater, he who, in his early boyhood, had counted his
conquests by scores; and even if he were not, beautiful Edith
Hastings could never be aught to him; and he must not suffer
himself for a single moment to think HOW beautiful she was, still
he could not help looking at her, and not a movement of her hand
or a bund of her head escaped him. But so skillfully did he manage
that the deluded girl fancied he never once glanced at her, while
he expressed to her his gratitude for having taken so good care of
"There is one room, however, you did not open," and the eyes of
brown met now the eyes of black, but were quickly withdrawn, as he
continued, "I mean the one at the head of the stairs, leading from
my private sitting-room."
"How do you know?" asked Edith, a suspicion of the truth flashing
upon her. "Did Blue Beard lay a snare in which to catch Fatima?"
"He did," Arthur answered, "but was nearly as certain then as now
that she would not fall into it. Miss Hastings, it gives me more
pleasure than I can well express to find one female who is worthy
to be trusted--who has no curiosity."
"But I have a heap of curiosity," returned Edith, laughingly. "I'm
half crazy to know what that room is for and why you are so
particular about it."
"Then you deserve more credit than I have given you," he replied,
a dark shadow stealing over his handsome face.
Edith was about to ask him of the portrait in the drawing room,
when he prevented her by making some playful allusion to the
circumstances of their first acquaintance.
"I began to think you had forgotten me," said Edith, "though I
knew you could not well forget the theft unjustly charged to me."
She hoped he would now speak of Nina, but he did not, and as she
for the first time remembered Mr. Griswold, she said, after a
"I came near forgetting my principal errand here. I could have
sent your keys, but I would rather deliver Mr. Griswold's message
She expected Arthur to start, but she was not prepared for him to
spring from his chair as suddenly as he did.
"Mr. Griswold!" he repeated. "Where did you see him? Has HE been
here? What did he say? Tell me, Edith--Miss Hastings--I beg your
pardon--tell me his errand."
He stood close to her now, and his eyes did not leave her face for
an instant while she repeated the particulars of her interview
with the stranger.
"And this is all--you've told me all that passed between you?" he
"Yes, all," she answered, pitying him, he looked so frightened, so
Consulting his watch, he continued, "There's time, I see, if I am
expeditious, I must take the next train east though I would so
much rather stay and talk with you. I shall see you again, Miss
Hastings. You'll come often to Grassy Spring, won't you? I need
the sight of a face like yours to keep me from going MAD."
He wrung her hand and stepped into the hall just as one of the
black women he had brought from Florida appeared.
"Aunt Phillis," he said, "I wish to speak with you," and going
with her to the extremity of the hall, they conversed together in
low, earnest tones, as if talking of some great sorrow in which
both were interested.
Once Edith heard Aunt Phillis say, "Blessed lamb, that I've done
toted so many tunes in these old arms. Go, Marser Arthur; never
you mind old Phillis, she'll get on somehow. Mebby the young lady
in thar kin show me the things and tell me the names of yer Yankee
"I have no doubt she will," returned Arthur, adding something in a
whisper which Edith could not hear.
A moment more and Arthur passed the door, equipped with overcoat
and umbrella, and she heard his rapid steps upon the back piazza
as he went towards the carriage house. Aunt Phillis now re-entered
the library, curtesying low to Edith, who saw upon her old black
face the trace of recent tears.
"Is Mr. St. Claire's friend very sick?" Edith ventured to ask, and
instantly the round bright eyes shot at her a glance of alarm,
while the negress replied, "Dunno, misses. He keeps his 'fars
mostly to hisself, and Phillis has done larnt not to pry."
Thus rebuked, Edith arose and began to tie on her hat preparatory
"Come in dis way a minute, Miss," said Phillis. "We're from
Floridy, and dunno more'n the dead what to do in such a shiny
kitchen as Marster St. Claire done keeps."
Edith followed her to the kitchen, in which she found several
dusky forms crouched before the fire, and gazing about them with a
wondering look. To Edith they were exceedingly polite, and taking
a seat in their midst she soon learned from a loquacious old lady,
who seemed to be superannuated, that "they were all one family,
she being the grandmother, Ike and Phillis the father and mother,
and 'tothers the children. We're all Ber-NARDS," she said, "case
that was ole marster's name, but now I dunno who we does 'long to.
Some says to Marster St. Claire and some says to Miss---"
"Mother!" and Phillis bustled up to the old lady, who, uttering a
loud outcry, exclaimed,
"The Lord, Phillis; you needn't done trod on my fetched corns. I
warn't a gwine to tell," and she loudly bewailed her aching foot,
encased in a shoe of most wonderful make.
When the pain had partially subsided, the talkative Judy
"There wasn't no sense, so I tole 'em, in 'totin' us way off here
in the dead o' winter. I'se kotched a misery in my back, and got
the shivers all over me. I'se too old any way to leave my cabin
thar in Floridy, and I'd a heap sight rather of stayed and died on
de old plantation. We has good times thar, me and Uncle Abe--
that's an old colored gentleman that lives jinin', and does
nothin', just as I do. He lost his wife nex Christmas'll be a
year; and, bein' lonesome like, he used to come over o' nights to
talk about her, and tell how mizzable it was to be alone."
"You are a widow, I presume," said Edith, her black eyes brimming
"Yes, chile, I'se been a widdy thirty year, an' Uncle Abe was such
a well-to-do nigger, a trifle shaky in the legs, I know; but it
don't matter. Marster St. Claire wouldn't part the family, he
said, and nothin' to do but I must come. Uncle Abe's cabin was
comfable enough, and thar was a hull chest of Rhody's things, a
doin' nobody no good."
Aunt Judy paused, and looked into the fire as if seeing there
images of the absent Abel, while Edith regarded her intently,
pressing her hands twice upon her forehead, as if trying to retain
a confused, blurred idea which flitted across her mind.
"Judy," she said, at last, "it seems to me I must have seen YOU
somewhere before, though where, I don't know."
"Like enough, honey," returned Judy. "Your voice sounds mighty
nateral, and them black eyes shine an' glisten like some oder eyes
I seen somewhar. Has you been in Floridy, chile?"
"No," returned Edith; "I was born in New York City, I believe."
"Then 'taint likely we's met afore," said Judy, "though you do
grow on me 'mazin'ly. You're the very spawn o' somebody. Phillis,
who does the young lady look like?"
Phillis, who had been rummaging the closets and cupboards, now
came forward, and scrutinizing Edith's features, said, "She favors
Master Ber-nard's last wife, only she's taller and plumper."
But with the querulousness of old age Judy scouted the idea.
"Reckoned she knowed how Marster Bernard's last wife looked.
'Twan't no more like the young lady than 'twas like Uncle Abe,"
and with her mind thus brought back to Abel, she commenced an
eulogy upon him, to which Edith did not care to listen, and she
gladly followed Phillis into the pantry, explaining to her the use
of such conveniences as she did not fully understand.
"Two o'clock!" she exclaimed, as she heard the silver bell from
the library clock. "Richard'll think I'm lost," and bidding her
new acquaintances good bye, she hurried to the gate, having first
given orders for Bedouin to be brought from the stable.
"Shan't I go home wid you, Miss?" asked the negro, who held the
pony; "it's hardly fittin' for you to go alone."
But Edith assured him she was not afraid, and galloped swiftly
down the road, while the negro John looked admiringly after,
declaring to his father, who joined him, that "she rode mighty
well for a Yankee girl."
Arthur St. Claire had returned from Worcester, but it was several
days ere he presented himself at Collingwood; and Edith was
beginning to think he had forgotten her and the promised drawing
lessons, when he one evening was ushered by Victor into the
parlor, where she was singing to Richard his favorite songs. He
was paler than when she saw him before, and she fancied that he
seemed weary and worn, as if sleep and himself had been for a long
"Did you leave your friend better?" she asked.
"Yes, better," he answered hurriedly, changing the conversation to
topics evidently more agreeable.
One could not be very unhappy in Edith's presence. She possessed
so much life, vivacity and vigor, that her companions were sure to
become more or less imbued with her cheerful spirit; and as the
evening advanced, Arthur became much like the Arthur of Brier Hill
memory, and even laughed aloud on several occasions.
"I wish I was sure of finding at Grassy Spring somebody just like
you," he said to Edith when at last he arose to go. "Yon have
driven away a whole army of blues. I almost believe I'd be willing
to be blind, if, by that means, I could be cared for as Mr.
"And crazy, too?" slily interrupted Edith, who was standing near
him as he leaned against the marble mantel.
"No, no--oh, heavens, no! anything but that," and the hand he
placed in Edith's shook nervously, but soon grew still between her
soft, warm palms.
There was something life-giving in Edith's touch, as well as soul-
giving in her presence, and standing there with his cold, nervous
hand in hers, the young man felt himself grow strong again, and
full of courage to hope for a happier future than the past had
been. He knew SHE could not share the future with him--but he
would have as much of her as possible, and just as she was
wondering if he would remember the lessons, he spoke of them and
asked when she could come.
"Just when Mr. Harrington thinks best," she replied, and thus
appealed to, Richard, guided by Edith's voice, came forward and
"Any time," he said. "To-morrow, if you like," adding that he
believed he, too, was to be always present.
Edith's eyes sought those of Arthur, reading there a reflection of
her own secret thoughts, to wit, that THREE would he one too many,
but they could not tell him so and Arthur responded at once,
"Certainly, I shall expect you both, say to-morrow at ten o'clock;
I am most at leisure then."
The next morning, at the appointed time, Richard and Edith
appeared at Grassy Spring, where they found Arthur waiting for
them, his portfolio upon the table, and his pencils lying near,
ready to be used.
"I am afraid you'll find it tiresome, Mr. Harrington," he said, as
he assigned his visitor a chair, and then went back to Edith.
"I shall do very well," answered Richard, and so he did for that
lesson, and the next, and the next, but at last, in spite of his
assertion to the contrary, he found it dull business going to
Grassy Spring twice each week, and sitting alone with nothing to
occupy his mind, except, indeed, to wonder how NEAR Arthur was to
Edith, and if he bent over her as he remembered seeing drawing
teachers do at school.
Richard was getting very tired of it--very weary of listening to
Arthur's directions, and to Edith's merry laughs at her awkward
blunders, and he was not sorry when one lesson-day, the fifth
since they began, Grace Atherton's voice was heard in the hall
without asking for admission. He had long since forgiven Grace for
jilting him, and they were the best of friends; so when she
suggested their going into the adjoining room, where it was
pleasanter and she could play to him if he liked, he readily
assented, and while listening to her lively conversation and fine
playing, he forgot the lapse of time, and was surprised when Edith
came to him with the news that it was 12 o'clock.
"Pray, don't go yet," said Arthur, who was loth to part with his
pupil. "You surely do not dine till three, and I have already
ordered lunch. Here it comes," and he pointed to the door where
Phillis stood, bearing a huge silver salver, on which were wine
and cake and fruit of various kinds.
"Grapes," screamed Edith, as she saw the rich purple clusters,
which had been put up for winter use by poor, discarded Mrs.
Johnson. "I really cannot go till I have some of them," and as
there was no alternative Richard sat down to wait the little
He did not care for lunch, but joined in the conversation, which
turned upon matrimony.
"It must be a very delightful state," said Edith, "provided one
were well matched and loved her husband, as I am sure I should
"Supposing you didn't love him," asked Grace, "but had married him
from force of circumstances, what then?"
"I'd kill him and the circumstances too," answered Edith.
"Wouldn't you, Mr. St. Claire?"
"I can hardly tell," he replied, "not having matrimony in my mind.
_I_ shall never marry."
"Never marry!" and the pang at Edith's heart was discernible in
her soft, black eyes, turned so quickly toward this candidate for
"How long since you came to that decision?" asked Grace; and in
tones which indicated truth, Arthur replied,
"Several years at least, and I have never for a moment changed my
"Because the right one has not come, perhaps," put in Richard,
growing very much interested in the conversation.
"The right one will never come," and Arthur spoke earnestly. "The
girl does not live, who can ever be to me a wife, were she
graceful as a fawn and beautiful as---" he glanced at Edith as if
he would call her name, but added instead--"as a Hebe, it could
make no difference. That matter is fixed, and is as changeless as
the laws of the Medes and Persians."
"I am sorry for you, young man," said Richard, whose face,
notwithstanding this assertion, indicated anything but sorrow.
He could now trust Edith alone at Grassy Spring--he need not
always be bored with coming there, and he was glad Arthur had so
freely expressed his sentiments, as it relieved him of a great
burden; so, at parting, when Arthur said to him us usual, "I'll
see you again on Friday," he replied,
"I don't know, I'm getting so worried with these abominably
tedious lessons, that for once I'll let her come alone."
Alas, poor, deluded Richard! He did not know that to attain this
very object, Arthur had said what he did. It is true, he meant
every word he uttered. Matrimony and Edith Hastings must not be
thought of together. That were worse than madness, and his better
judgment warned him not to see too much of her--told him it was
better far to have that sightless man beside them when they met
together in a relation so intimate as the teacher bears to his
pupil. But Arthur would not listen; Edith was the first who for
years had really touched a human chord in his palsied heart, and
the vibration would not cease without a fiercer struggle than he
cared to make. It could do no harm, he said. He had been so
unhappy--was so unhappy now. Edith would, of course, be Richard's
wife; he had foreseen that from the very first--had predicted it
long ago, but ere the sacrifice was made, he was surely pardonable
if, for a little while, he gave himself to the bewildering
intoxication of basking in the sunshine of her eyes, of bending so
near to her that he could feel her fragrant breath, feel the warm
glow of her cheek, of holding those little hands a moment in his
own after he had ceased to teach her fingers how to guide the
All this passed in rapid review before his mind while his lips
uttered the words which had so delighted Richard, and when he saw
the shadow on Edith's face, his poor, aching heart throbbed with a
joy as wild and intense as it was hopeless and insane. This was
Arthur St. Claire with Edith present, but with Edith gone, he was
quite another man. Eagerly he watched her till she disappeared
from view, then returning to the library he sat down where she had
sat--laid his head upon the table where her hands had lain, and
cursed himself for daring to dream of love in connection with
Edith Hastings. It would be happiness for a time, he knew, to hang
upon her smile, to watch the lights and shadows of her speaking
face, to look into her eyes--those clear, truthful eyes which had
in them no guile. All this would be perfect bliss, were it not
that the end must come at last--the terrible end--remorse bitterer
than death for him, and for her--the pure, unsullied, trusting
Edith--ruin, desolation, and madness, it might be.
"Yes, MADNESS!" he exclaimed aloud, "hateful as the word may
sound." And he gnashed his teeth as it dropped from between them.
"No, Edith, no. Heaven helping me, I will not subject you to this
temptation. I will not drag you down with me, and yet, save
Griswold, there lives not the person who knows my secret. May be
he could be bought. Oh, the maddening thought. Am I a demon or a
brute?" And he leaped from his chair, cursing himself again and
again for having fallen so low as to dream of an act fraught with
so much wrong to Edith, and so much treachery to one as fair, as
beautiful as she, and far, far more to be pitied.
Arthur St. Claire was, at heart, a noble, upright, honorable man,
and sure, at last, to choose the right, however rugged were the
road. For years he had groped in a darkness deeper, more hopeless
than that which enshrouded the blind man, and in all that time
there had shone upon his pathway not a single ray of daylight. The
past, at which he dared not look, lay behind him a dreary waste,
and the black future stretched out before him, years on years it
might be, in which there would be always the same old cankering
wound festering in his soul. He could NOT forget this plague spot.
He never had forgotten it for a single moment until he met with
Edith Hatings, who possessed for him a powerful mesmeric charm,
causing him in her presence to forget everything but her. This
fascination was sudden but not less powerful for that. Arthur's
was an impulsive nature, and it seemed to him that he had known
Edith all his life, that she was a part of his very being. But he
must forget her now, she must not come there any more, he could
not resist her if she did; and seizing his pen he dashed off a few
lines to the effect that, for certain reasons, the drawing lessons
must henceforth be discontinued.
Arthur though himself very strong to do so much, but when he arose
to ring for the servant who was to take this note to Collingwood,
his courage all forsook him. Why need he cast her off entirely?
Why throw away the only chance for happiness there was left for
him? 'Twas Arthur's weaker manhood which spoke, and he listened,
for Edith Hastings was in the scale, a mighty, overwhelming
weight. She might come just once more, he said, and his heart
swelled within his throat as he thought of being alone with her,
no jealous Richard hovering near, like a dark, brooding cloud, his
blind eyes shielding her from harm even more than they could have
done had they been imbued with sight. The next time she came, the
restraint would be removed. She would be alone, and the hot blood
poured swiftly through his veins as he thought how for one brief
moment he would be happy. He WOULD wind his arm around that
girlish waist, where no other manly arm save that of Richard had
ever been; he WOULD hug her to his bosom, where no other head than
hers could ever lie; he would imprint one burning kiss upon her
lips; would tell her how dear she was to him; and then--his brain
reeled and grew dizzy as he thought that THEN he must bid her
leave him forever, for an interview like that must not he
repeated. But for once, just once, he would taste of the forbidden