Part 2 out of 6
"I think so," said Helen. "I've about seen everybody and everything
I wanted to at home; I've been wonderfully happy, Auntie."
"That is right, my dear," said Aunt Polly. "You have certainly every
cause to be, and you would be foolish not to make the most of it.
But I should think this town would seem a somewhat less important
place to you, after all that you have seen of the world."
"Yes, it does a little," laughed Helen, "but it seemed good to see
all the old people again."
"Someone told me they saw Arthur here on Saturday," said the other.
"Did you see _him?_"
"Oh, yes," said Helen; "that's what he came for. You can fancy how
glad I was to meet him. I spent a couple of hours walking in the
woods with him."
Mrs. Roberts' look of dismay may be imagined; it was far too great
for her to hide.
"Where is he now?" she asked, hastily.
"Oh, he has gone home," said Helen; and she added, smiling, "he went
on Saturday afternoon, because he's writing a poem about
thunderstorms, and he wanted to study that one."
The other was sufficiently convinced of the irresponsibility of
poets to be half uncertain whether Helen was joking or not; it was
very frequently difficult to tell, anyway, for Helen would look
serious and amuse herself by watching another person's
mystification--a trait of character which would have been
intolerable in anyone less fascinating than she.
Perhaps Aunt Polly thought something of that as she sat and watched
the girl. Aunt Polly was a little woman who looked as if she herself
might have once made some pretense to being a belle, but she was
very humble before Helen. "My dear," she said, "every minute that I
watch you, I am astonished to see how wonderfully you have grown. Do
you know, Helen, you are glorious!"
"Yes," said Helen, smiling delightedly. "Isn't it nice, Aunt Polly?
I'm so glad I'm beautiful."
"You funny child," laughed the other. "What a queer thing to say!"
"Am I not to know I am beautiful?" inquired Helen, looking at her
with open eyes. "Why, dear me! I can look at myself in the glass and
be just as happy as anyone else; I love everything beautiful."
Aunt Polly beamed upon her. "I am glad of it, my dear," she laughed.
"I only wish I could say something to you to make you realize what
your wonderful beauty means."
"How, Aunt Polly?" asked the girl. "Have you been reading poetry?"
"No," said the other, "not exactly; but you know very well in your
heart what hopes I have for you, Helen, and I only wish you could
appreciate the gift that has been given you, and not fling it away
in any foolish fashion. With your talents and your education, my
dear, there is almost nothing that you might not do."
"Yes," said Helen, with all of her seriousness, "I often think of
it; perhaps, Auntie, I might become a poetess!"
The other looked aghast. Helen had seen the look on her aunt's face
at the mention of her walk with Arthur, and being a young lady of
electrical wit, had understood just what it meant, and just how the
rest of the conversation was intended to bear upon the matter; with
that advantage she was quite in her glory.
"No, indeed, Aunt Polly," she said, "you can never tell; just
suppose, for instance, I were to fall in love with and marry a man
of wonderful genius, who would help me to devote myself to art? It
would not make any difference, you know, if he were poor--we could
struggle and help each other. And oh, I tell you, if I were to meet
such a man, and to know that he loved me truly, and to have proof
that he could remember me and be true to me, even when I was far
away, oh, I tell you, nothing could ever keep me--"
Helen was declaiming her glowing speech with real fervor, her hands
dramatically outstretched. But she could not get any further, for
the look of utter horror upon her auditor's face was too much for
her; she dropped her hands and made the air echo with her laughter.
"Oh, Aunt Polly, you goose!" she cried, flinging one arm about her,
"have you really forgotten me that much in three years?"
The other was so relieved at the happy denouement of that fearful
tragedy that she could only protest, "Helen, Helen, why do you fool
"Because you fool me, or try to," said Helen. "When you have a
sermon to preach on the impropriety of walking in the woods alone
with a susceptible young poet, I wish you'd mount formally into the
pulpit and begin with the text."
"My dear," laughed the other, "you are too quick; but I must
"Of course you must," said the girl; and she folded her hands meekly
and looked grave. "And now I am ready; and if you meet with any
difficulties in the course of your sermon, I've an expert at home
who has preached one hundred and four every year for twenty years,
all genuine and no two alike."
"Helen," said the other, "I do wish you would talk seriously with
me. You are old enough to be your own mistress now, and to do as you
please, but you ought to realize that I have seen the world more
than you, and that my advice is worth something."
"Tell it to me," said Helen, ceasing to laugh, and leaning back in
the carriage and gazing at her aunt. "What do you want me to do, now
that I am home? I will be really serious if you wish me to, for that
does interest me. I suppose that my education is finished?"
"Yes," said the other, "it ought to be, certainly; you have had
every advantage that a girl can have, a great deal more than I ever
had. And you owe it all to me, Helen,--you do, really; if it hadn't
been for my insisting you'd have gotten all your education at
Hilltown, and you'd have played the piano and sung like Mary Nelson
across the way."
Helen shuddered, and felt that that was cause indeed for gratitude.
"It is true," said her aunt; "I've taken as much interest in you as
in any one of my own children, and you must know it. It was for no
reason at all but that I saw what a wonderful woman you promised to
become, and I was anxious to help you to the social position that I
thought you ought to have. And now, Helen, the chance is yours if
you care to take it."
"I am taking it, am I not?" asked Helen; "I'm going with you, and I
shall be just as charming as I can."
"Yes, I know," said the other, smiling a little; "but that is not
exactly what I mean."
"What do you mean?"
"Of course, my dear, you may enter good society a while by visiting
me; but that will not be permanently. You will have to marry into
it, Helen dear."
"Marry!" echoed the girl, taken aback. "Dear me!"
"You will wish to marry some time," said the other, "and so you
should look forward to it and choose your course. With your charms,
Helen, there is almost nothing that you might not hope for; you must
know yourself that you could make any man fall in love with you that
you wished. And you ought to know also that if you only had wealth
you could enter any society; for you have good birth, and you will
discover that you have more knowledge and more wit than most of the
people you meet."
"I've discovered that already," said Helen, laughing.
"All that you must do, my love," went on the other, "is to realize
what is before you, and make up your mind to what you want. You know
that your tastes are not those of a poor woman; you have been
accustomed to comfort, and you need refinement and wealth; you could
never be happy unless you could entertain your friends properly, and
live as you pleased."
"But I don't want to marry a man just for his money," protested the
girl, not altogether pleased with her aunt's business-like view.
"No one wants you to," the other responded; "you may marry for love
if you like; but it is not impossible to love a rich man, is it,
"But, Aunt Polly," said Helen, "I am satisfied as I am now. I do not
want to marry anybody. The very idea makes me shudder."
"I am not in the least anxious that you should," was the answer.
"You are young, and you may choose your own time. All I am anxious
for is that you should realize the future that is before you. It is
dreadful to me to think that you might throw your precious chance
away by some ridiculous folly."
Helen looked at her aunt for a moment, and then the irrepressible
smile broke out.
"What is the matter, child?" asked the other.
"Nothing, except that I was thinking about how these thoughts were
"How do you mean?"
"Apropos of my woodland walk with poor Arthur. Auntie, I do believe
you're afraid I'm going to fall in love with the dear fellow."
"No," said Aunt Polly; "it is not exactly that, for I'd never be
able to sleep at night if I thought you capable of anything quite so
ghastly. But we must have some care of what people will think, my
As a matter of fact, Aunt Polly did have some very serious fears
about the matter, as has been hinted before; it was, perhaps, a kind
of tribute to the divine fire which even society's leaders pay. If
it had been a question of a person of her own sense and experience,
the word "genius" would have suggested no danger to Mrs. Roberts,
but it was different with a young and probably sentimental person
like Helen, with her inflaming beauty.
"As a matter of fact, Aunt Polly," said Helen, "everybody
understands my intimacy with Arthur."
"Tell me, Helen dear," said the other, turning her keen glance upon
her; "tell me the honest truth."
"You are not in love with Arthur?"
And Helen answered her with her eyes very wide open: "No, I
certainly am not in the least."
And the other drew secretly a great breath of relief. "Is he in love
with you, Helen?" she asked.
As Helen thought of Arthur's departure, the question could not but
bring a smile. "I--I'm afraid he is," she said.--"a very little."
"What a ridiculous impertinence!" exclaimed the other, indignantly.
"Oh, that's all right, Auntie," said Helen; "he really can't help
it, you know." She paused for a moment, and then she went on: "Such
things used to puzzle me when I was very young, and I used to think
them quite exciting; but I'm getting used to them now. All the men
seem to fall in love with me,--they do, honestly, and I don't know
how in the world to help it. They all will make themselves wretched,
and I'm sure it isn't my fault. I haven't told you anything about my
German lovers, have I, Auntie?"
"Gracious, no!" said the other; "were there any?"
"Any?" laughed the girl. "I might have robbed the Emperor of a whole
colonel's staff, and the colonel at the head of it. But I'll tell
you about Johann, the funniest one of all; I think he really loved
me more than all the rest."
"Pray, who was Johann?" asked Aunt Polly, thinking how fortunate it
was that she learned of these things only after the danger was over.
"I never will forget the first time I met him," laughed the girl,
"the first day I went to the school. Johann was a little boy who
opened the door for me, and he stared at me as if he were in a
trance; he had the most wonderful round eyes, and puffy red cheeks
that made me always think I'd happened to ring the bell while he was
eating; and every time after that he saw me for three years he used
to gaze at me in the same helpless wonder, with all lingers of his
fat little hands wide apart."
"What a disagreeable wretch!" said the other.
"Not in the least," laughed Helen; "I liked him. But the funniest
part came afterwards, for when I came away Johann had grown a whole
foot, and was quite a man. I sent for him to put the straps on my
trunks, and guess what he did! He stared at me for a minute, just
the same as ever, and then he ran out of the room, blubbering like a
baby; and that's the last I ever saw of him."
Helen was laughing as she told the story, but then she stopped and
looked a little conscience-stricken. "Do you know, Aunt Polly," she
said, "it is really a dreadful thing to make people unhappy like
that; I suppose poor Johann had spent three whole years dreaming
about the enchanted castle in which I was to be fairy princess."
"It was a good chance for a romantic marriage," said the other.
"Yes," said the girl, laughing again; "I tried to fancy it. He'd
have kept a Wirthshaus, I suppose, and I'd have served the guests;
and Arthur might have come, and I'd have cut Butterbrod for him and
he could have been my Werther! Wouldn't Arthur have made a fine
Werther, though, Aunt Polly?"
"And blown his brains out afterwards," added the other.
"No," said Helen, "brains are too scarce; I'd rather have him follow
Goethe's example and write a book about it instead. You know I don't
believe half the things these poets tell you, for I think they put
themselves through their dreadful experiences just to tell about
them and make themselves famous. Don't you believe that, Auntie?"
"I don't know," said the other (a statement which she seldom made).
"I don't know much about such things. Nobody reads poetry any more,
you know, Helen, and it doesn't really help one along very much."
"It doesn't do any harm, does it?" inquired the girl, smiling to
herself, "just a little, once in a while?"
"Oh, no, of course not," said the other; "I believe that a woman
ought to have a broad education, for she never knows what may be the
whims of the men she meets, or what turn a conversation may take.
All I'm afraid of, Helen, is that if you fill your mind with
sentimental ideas you might be so silly as to fancy that you were
doing something romantic in throwing your one great chance away upon
some worthless nobody. I want you to realize what you are, Helen,
and that you owe something to yourself, and to your family, too; for
the Roberts have always had wealth and position until your mother
chose to marry a poor man. What I warn you of now is exactly what I
warned her of. Your father is a good man, but he had absolutely
nothing to make your mother happy; she was cut off from everything
she had been used to,--she could not even keep a carriage. And of
course she could not receive her old friends, very few of them cared
to have anything more to do with her, and so she simply pined away
in discontentment and miserable poverty. You have had an easy life,
Helen, and you have no idea of what a horrible thing it is to be
poor; you have had the best of teachers, and you have lived at an
expensive school, and of course you have always had me to rely upon
to introduce you to the right people; but if you married a poor man
you couldn't expect to keep any of those advantages. I don't speak
of your marrying a man who had no money at all, for that would be
too fearful to talk about; but suppose you were to take any one of
the young men you might meet at Oakdale even, you'd have to live in
a mean little house, and do with one or two servants, and worry
yourself about the butcher's bills and brush your own dresses and
drive your own horse. And how long do you suppose it would be before
you repented of that? Think of having to be like those poor Masons,
for instance; they are nice people, and I like them, but I hate to
go there, for every time I can't help seeing that the parlor
furniture is more dingy, and thinking how miserable they must be,
not to be able to buy new things. And their servants' liveries are
half worn too; and when you dine there you see that Mrs. Mason is
eating with a plated fork, because she has not enough of her best
silver to go around. All those things are trifles, Helen, but think
of the worry they must give those poor people, who are pinching
themselves and wearing themselves out soul and body, trying to keep
in the station where they belong, or used to. Poor Mrs. Mason is
pale and nervous and wrinkled at forty, and those three poor girls,
who spend their time making over their old dresses, are so dowdy-
looking and uneasy that no man ever glances at them twice. It is
such misery as that which I dread for you, Helen, and why I am
talking to you. There is no reason why you should take upon you such
sorrows; you have a clear head, and you can think for yourself and
make up your mind about things if you only won't blind yourself by
foolish sentimentality. You have been brought up to a certain
station in life, and no man has a right to offer himself to you
unless he can maintain you in that station. There is really no
scarcity of such men, Helen, and you'd have no trouble in finding
one. There are hundreds of men in New York who are worth millions,
and who would fling themselves and their wealth at your feet if you
would have them. And you would find such a difference between the
opportunities of pleasure and command that such a chance would give
you and the narrow life that you lead in this little town that you
would wonder how you could ever have been satisfied. It is difficult
for you to realize what I mean, my dear, because you have only a
schoolgirl's knowledge of life and its pleasures, but when you are
in the world, and have learned what power is, and what it means to
possess such beauty as yours, you will feel your heart swelling with
a new pleasure, and you will thank me for what I tell you. I have
figured a wonderful triumph for you, Helen, and it is time you knew
what is before you. Of what use is your beauty, if you do not carry
it into a wide enough sphere, where it can bring you the admiration
and homage you deserve? You need such a field, Helen, to discover
your own powers in; believe me, my dear, there is really a higher
ambition in the world than to be a country clergyman's daughter."
"Is there any higher than being happy, Auntie?" asked Helen.
The importance of that observation was beyond the other's ken, as
indeed it was beyond Helen's also; she had thrown it out as a chance
"Mr. Roberts and I were talking about this last night," went on Aunt
Polly, "and he told me that I ought to talk seriously to you about
it, and get you to realize what a golden future is before you. For
it is really true, Helen, as sure as you can trust what I know about
the world, that you can have absolutely anything that you want. That
is the long and short of the matter--anything that you want! And why
should you not have the very best that life can give you? Why should
you have to know that other people dwell in finer houses than yours,
and are free from cares that make you ill? Why should you have the
humiliation of being looked down upon and scorned by other people?
Are these other people more entitled to luxury than you, or more
able to enjoy it; or could anyone do it more honor than you? You are
beautiful beyond telling; you have every gift that a woman can ask
to complete enjoyment of life; you are perfect, Helen, you are
really perfect! You _must_ know that; you must say it to yourself
when you are alone, and know that your life ought to be a queenly
triumph. You have only to stretch out your arms and everything will
come to you; and there is really and truly no end to the happiness
you can taste."
Helen was gazing at the other with real earnestness, and the words
were sinking deep into her soul, deeper than words generally sunk
there. She felt her cheeks burning, and her frame stirred by a new
emotion; she had seldom before thought of anything but the happiness
of the hour.
"Just think of it, my love," continued Mrs. Roberts, "and know that
that is what your old auntie was thinking of when you were only a
little tiny girl, sitting upon her knee, and when you were so
beautiful that artists used to beg to have you pose for them. I
never said anything about it then, because you were too young to
understand these things; but now that you are to manage yourself, I
have been waiting for a chance to tell you, so that you may see what
a prize is yours if you are only wise. And if you wonder why I have
cared so much and thought so much of what might be yours, the only
reason I can give is that you are my niece, and that I felt that any
triumph you might win would be mine. I want you to win a higher
place in the world than mine, Helen; I never had such a gift as
Helen was silent for a minute, deeply thoughtful.
"Tell me, Auntie," she asked, "and is it really true, then, that a
woman is to train herself and grow beautiful and to have so much
trouble and money spent upon her--only for her marriage?"
"Why of course, Helen; what else can a woman do? Unless you have
money and a husband you cannot possibly hope to accomplish anything
in society. With your talents and your beauty you might go anywhere
and rule anywhere, but you have to have money before you can even
"But where am I to meet such a rich man, Aunt Polly?" asked Helen.
"You know perfectly well where. Do you suppose that after I have
worried myself about you all this time I mean to desert you now,
when you are at the very climax of your glory, when you are all that
I ever dared dream of? My dear Helen, I am more interested in you
just now than in anything else in the world. I feel as a card player
feels when millions are at stake, and when he knows that he holds
the perfect hand."
"That is very nice," said Helen, laughing nervously. "But there is
always a chance of mistake."
"There is none this time, Helen, for I am an old player, and I have
been picking and arranging my hand for long, long years; and you are
the hand, my love, and the greatest glory of it all must be yours."
Helen's heart was throbbing still faster with excitement, as if she
were already tasting the wonderful triumph that was before her; her
aunt was watching her closely, noting how the blood was mounting to
her bright cheeks. The girl felt herself suddenly choking with her
pent up excitement, and she stretched out her arms with a strange
"Auntie," she said, "you tell me too much at once."
The other had been marshaling her forces like a general during the
last few minutes, and she felt just then as if there were nothing
left but the rout. "All that I tell you, you may see for yourself,"
she said. "I don't ask you to take anything on my word, for you have
only to look in the glass and compare yourself with the women you
meet. You will find that all men will turn their eyes upon you when
you enter a room."
Helen did not consider it necessary to debate that question. "You
have invited some rich man to meet me at your house?" she asked.
"I was going to say nothing to you about it at first," said the
other, "and let you find out. But I thought afterwards that it would
be better to tell you, so that you could manage for yourself. I have
invited all the men whom Mr. Roberts and I thought it would be best
for you to meet."
Helen gazed at her aunt silently for a moment, and then she broke
into a nervous laugh. "A regular exposition!" she said; "and you'll
bring them out one by one and put them through their paces, won't
you, Auntie? And have them labeled for comparison,--so that I can
tell just what stocks they own and how they stand on the 'Street'!
Do you remember the suitor in Moliere?--_'J'ai quinze mille livres
de rente; j'ai le corps sain; j'ai des beaux dents!_'"
It was a flash of Helen's old merriment, but it did not seem so
natural as usual, even to her. She forced herself to laugh, for she
was growing more and more excited and uneasy.
"My dear," said Aunt Polly, "please do not begin making fun again."
"But you must let me joke a little, Auntie," said the girl. "I have
never been serious for so long before."
"You ought to be serious about it, my dear."
"I will," said Helen. "I have really listened attentively; you must
tell me all about these rich men that I am to meet, and what I am to
do. I hope I am not the only girl."
"Of course not," was the response; "I would not do anything
ridiculous. I have invited a number of other girls--but they won't
trouble you in the least."
"No," said Helen. "I am not afraid of other girls; but what's to be
done? It's a sort of house-warming, I suppose?"
"Yes," was the reply, "I suppose so, for I only came down last week
myself. I have asked about twenty people for a week or two; they all
know each other, more or less, so there won't be much formality. We
shall amuse ourselves with coaching and golf, and anything else we
please; and of course there will be plenty of music in the evening."
Helen smiled at the significant tone of her aunt's voice. "Are the
people there now?" she asked.
"Those who live anywhere in the neighborhood are; most of the men
will be down on the afternoon train, in time for dinner."
"And tell me who are the men, Auntie?"
"I'm afraid I won't have time," said Mrs. Roberts, glancing out of
the carriage. "We are too near home. But I will tell you about one
of them, if you like."
"The king-bee?" laughed Helen. "Is there a king-bee?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Roberts; "there is. At any rate, my husband and I
think he is, and we are anxious to see what you think. His name is
Gerald Harrison, and he comes from Cincinnati."
"Oh, dear," said Helen, "I hate to meet men from the West. He must
be a pork-packer, or something horrible."
"No," said the other, "he is a railroad president."
"And why do you think he's the king-bee; is he very rich?"
"He is worth about ten million dollars," said Aunt Polly.
Helen gazed at her wildly. "Ten million dollars!" she gasped.
"Yes," said the other; "about that, probably a little more. Mr.
Roberts knows all about his affairs."
Helen was staring into her aunt's face. "Tell me," she asked, very
nervously indeed. "Tell me, honestly!"
"Is that the man you are bringing me here to meet?"
"Yes, Helen," said the other quietly.
The girl's hands were clasped tightly together just then. "Aunt
Polly," she asked, "what kind of a man is he? I will not marry a bad
"A bad man, child? How ridiculous! Do you suppose I would ask you to
marry a bad man, if he owned all New York? I want you to be happy.
Mr. Harrison is a man who has made his own fortune, and he is a man
of tremendous energy. Everyone is obliged to respect him."
"But he must be old, Auntie."
"He is very young, Helen, only about forty."
"Dear me," said the girl, "I could never marry a man as old as
forty; and then, I'd have to go out West!"
"Mr. Harrison has come to New York to live," was the other's reply.
"He has just bought a really magnificent country seat about ten
miles from here--the old Everson place, if you remember it; and he
is negotiating for a house near ours in the city. My husband and I
both agreed, Helen, that if you could make Mr. Harrison fall in love
with you it would be all that we could desire."
"That is not the real problem," Helen said, gazing out of the
carriage with a frightened look upon her face; "it is whether I can
fall in love with him. Aunt Polly, it is dreadful to me to think of
marrying; I don't want to marry! I don't care who the man is!"
"We'll see about that later on," said the other, smiling
reassuringly, and at the same time putting her arm about the girl;
"there is no hurry, my love, and no one has the least thought of
asking you to do what you do not want to do. But a chance like this
does not come often to any girl, my dear. Mr. Harrison is in every
way a desirable man."
"But he's stupid, Aunt Polly, I know he's stupid! All self-made men
are; they tell you about how they made themselves, and what
wonderful things they hare made!"
"You must of course not expect to find Mr. Harrison as cultured as
yourself, Helen," was the reply; "his education has been that of the
world, and not of books. But nobody thinks less of a man for that in
the world; the most one can ask is that he does not make pretenses.
And he is very far from stupid, I assure you, or he would not have
been what he is."
"I suppose not," said Helen, weakly.
"And, besides," observed Aunt Polly, laughing to cheer the girl up,
"I assure you it doesn't make any difference. My husband makes no
pretense to being a wit, or a musician, or anything like that; he's
just a plain, sensible man, but we get along as happily as you could
wish. We each of us go our own way, and understand each other
"So I'm to marry a plain, sensible man?" asked the girl, apparently
not much comforted by the observation.
"A plain, sensible man with ten million dollars, my dear," said Aunt
Polly, "who adores you and has nothing to do with his money but to
let you make yourself happy and glorious with it? But don't worry
yourself, my child, because the first thing for you to feel is that
if you don't like him you need not take him. It all rests upon you;
he won't be here till after the rest, till the evening train, so you
can have time to think it over and calculate whether ten million
dollars will buy anything you want." And Mrs. Roberts laughed.
Then the carriage having passed within the gates of her home, she
kissed the girl upon her cheek. "By the way," she added, "if you
want to meet a romantic person to offset Mr. Harrison, I'll tell you
about Mr. Howard. I haven't mentioned him, have I?"
"I never heard of him," said Helen.
"It's a real romance," said the other. "You didn't suppose that your
sensible old auntie could have a romance, did you?"
"Tell me about it," laughed Helen.
The carriage was driving up the broad avenue that led to the Roberts
house; it was a drive of a minute or two, however, and so Aunt Polly
had time for a hasty explanation.
"It was over twenty years ago," she said, "before your mother was
married, and when our family had a camp up in the Adirondacks; there
were only two others near us, and in each of them there was a young
man about my age. We three were great friends for three or four
years, but we've never seen each other since till a short while
"And one of them is this man?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Roberts; "his name is David Howard; I met him quite
by accident the other day, and recognized him. He lives all alone,
in the winter in New York somewheres, and in the summer up at the
same place in the mountains; he's the most romantic man you ever
met, and I know you'll find him interesting. He's a poet, I fancy,
or a musician at any rate, and he's a very great scholar."
"Is he rich too?" asked the girl, laughing.
"I fancy not," was the reply, "but I can't tell; he lives very
"Aren't you afraid I'll fall in love with him, Auntie?"
"No," said the other, smiling to herself; "I'm not worrying about
"Wait till you see him, my dear," was the reply; "if you choose him
for a husband I'll give my consent."
"That sounds mysterious," observed the girl, gazing at her aunt;
"tell me, is he here now?"
"Yes," said Aunt Polly; "he's been here a day or two; but I don't
think you'll see him at dinner, because he has been feeling unwell
today; he may be down a while this evening, for I've been telling
him about you, and he's anxious to see you. You must be nice to him,
Helen, and try to feel as sorry for him as I do."
"Sorry for him?" echoed the girl with a start.
"Yes, my dear, he is an invalid, with some very dreadful
And Helen stared at her aunt. "An affliction!" she cried. "Aunt
Polly, that is horrible! What in the world did you invite an invalid
for at this time, with all the other people? I _hate_ invalids!"
"I had asked him before," was the apologetic reply, "and so I
couldn't help it. I had great difficulty in getting him to promise
to come anyway, for he's a very strange, solitary man. But I wanted
to have my little romance, and renew our acquaintance, and this was
the only time the third party could come."
"Oh, the third one is here too?"
"He will be in a day or two."
"Who is he?"
"His name is Lieutenant Maynard, and he's in the navy; he's
stationed at Brooklyn just now, but he expects to get leave for a
"That is a little better," Helen remarked, as the carriage was
drawing up in front of the great house. "I'd marry a naval officer."
"No," laughed Aunt Polly; "he leaves a wife and some children in
Brooklyn. We three are going to keep to ourselves and talk about old
times and what has happened to us since then, and so you young folks
will not be troubled by us."
"I hope you will," said the other, "for I can't ever be happy with
And there, as the carriage door was opened, the conversation ended
abruptly. When Helen had sprung out she found that there were six or
eight people upon the piazza, to whom the excitement of being
introduced drove from her mind for a time all thoughts which her
aunt's words had brought.
"If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me,
Without my stir."
Most of the people whom Helen met upon her arrival were of her own
sex, so that she did not feel called upon to make special exertions
to please them; but she was naturally cheerful and happy with
everyone, and the other matters of which Mrs. Roberts had talked
took on such vast proportions before her mind that it was a relief
to her to put them aside and enjoy herself for a while in her usual
way. Helen was glad that most of the men were to arrive later, so
that she might make her appearance before them under the most
favorable circumstances. When she heard the distant whistle of the
afternoon train a couple of hours later, it was with that thought
that she retired to her room to rest before dressing.
Aunt Polly, following her plan of accustoming the girl to a proper
style of living, had engaged a maid to attend her during her stay;
and Helen found therefore that her trunks were unpacked and
everything in order. It was a great relief to her to be rid of all
care, and she took off her dress and flung herself down upon the bed
Helen had imbided during her Sunday-school days the usual formulas
of dogmatic religion, but upon matters of morality her ideas were of
the vaguest possible description. The guide of her life had always
been her instinct for happiness, her "genial sense of youth." She
had never formulated any rule of life to herself, but that which she
sought was joy, primarily for herself, and incidentally for other
people, because unhappy people were disturbing (unless it were
possible to avoid them). In debating within herself the arguments
which her aunt had brought before her mind, it was that principle
chiefly by which she tested them.
To the girl's eager nature, keenly sensitive to pleasure and greedy
for it, the prospect so suddenly flung wide before her eyes was so
intoxicating that again and again as she thought of it it made her
tremble and burn. So far as Helen could see at that moment, a
marriage with this Mr. Harrison would mean the command of every
source of happiness; and upon a scale so magnificent, so belittling
of everything she had known before, that she shrank from it as
something impossible and unnatural. Again and again she buried her
heated brow in her hands and muttered: "I ought to have known it
before! I ought to have had time to realize it."
That which restrained the girl from welcoming such an opportunity,
from clasping it to her in ecstasy and flinging herself madly into
the whirl of pleasure it held out, was not so much her conscience
and the ideals which she had formed more or less vaguely from the
novels and poems she had read, as the instinct of her maidenhood,
which made her shrink from the thought of marriage with a man whom
she did not love. So strong was this feeling in her that at first
she felt that she could not even bear to be introduced to him with
such an idea in her mind.
It was Aunt Polly's wisdom and diplomacy which finally overcame her
scruples enough to persuade her to that first step; Helen kept
thinking of her aunt's words--that no one wanted to compel her to
marry the man, that she might do just as she chose. She argued that
it was foolish to worry herself, or to be ill at ease. She might see
what sort of a man he was; if he fell in love with her it would do
no harm,--Helen was not long in discovering by the increased pace of
her pulses that she would find it exciting to have everyone know
that a multimillionaire was in love with her. "As for the rest," she
said to herself, "we'll see when the time comes," and knew not that
one who goes to front his life's temptation with that resolution is
a mariner who leaves the steering of his vessel to the tempest.
She had stilled her objection by such arguments, and was just
beginning to feel the excitement of the prospect once more, when the
maid knocked at the door and asked to know if mademoiselle were
ready to dress for dinner. And mademoiselle arose and bathed her
face and arms and was once more her old refreshed and rejoicing
self, ready for that mysterious and wonderful process which was to
send her out an hour or two later a vision of perfectness,
compounded of the hues of the rose and the odors of evening, with
the new and unutterable magic that is all the woman's own. Besides
the prospects her aunt had spoken of, there were reasons enough why
Helen should be radiant, for it was her first recognized appearance
in high society; and so she sat in front of the tall mirror and
criticised every detail of the coiffure which the maid prepared, and
eyed by turns her gleaming neck and shoulders and the wonderful
dress, as yet unworn, which shone from the bed through its covering
of tissue paper; and was all the time so filled with joy and delight
that it was a pleasure to be near her. Soon Aunt Polly, clad in
plain black as a sign that she retired in favor of Helen, came in to
assist and superintend the toilet. So serious at the task, and so
filled with a sense of its importance and the issues that were
staked upon it was she and the maid also, that one would not dare
think of the humor of the situation if Helen herself had not broken
the spell by declaring that she felt like an Ashantee warrior being
decked out for battle with plumes and war paint, or like Rinaldo, or
Amadis donning his armor.
And Helen was in fact going to war, a war for which nature has been
training woman since the first fig-tree grew. She carried a bow
strong as the one of Ulysses, which no man could draw, and an arrow
sharp as the sunbeam and armed with a barb; for a helmet, beside her
treasure of golden hair, she wore one rose, set there with the art
that conceals art, so that it was no longer a red rose, but one more
bright perfection that had come to ripeness about the glowing
maiden. Her dress was of the same color, a color which when worn
upon a woman is a challenge, crying abroad that here is perfection
beyond envy and beyond praise.
When the last touch was finished and Helen gazed upon herself, with
her bare shoulders and arms and her throat so soft and white, she
knew that she was, compared to all about her, a vision from another
world. Chiefest of all, she knew that neither arms and shoulders,
nor robe, nor gleaming hair, would ever be thought of when once the
face that smiled upon her with its serene perfectness had caught the
eye; she knew that as usual, men must start when they saw her, and
never take their eyes from her. The thought filled her with an
exulting consciousness of power, and reared her form with a new
dignity, and made her chest heave and her cheeks burn with yet a new
When everything was ready, Aunt Polly's husband was called in to
gaze upon her. A little man was Aunt Polly's husband, with black
side whiskers and a head partly bald; a most quiet and unobtrusive
person, looking just what he had been represented,--a "plain,
sensible man," who attended to his half of the family affairs, and
left the other half to his wife. He gazed upon Helen and blinked
once or twice, as if blinded by so much beauty, and then took the
end of her fingers very lightly in his and pronounced her
"absolutely perfect." "And, my dear," he added, "it's after seven,
so perhaps we'd best descend."
So he led the girl down to her triumph, to the handsome parlors of
the house where eight or ten men were strolling about. It was quite
exciting to Helen to meet them, for they were all strangers, and
Aunt Polly had apparently considered Mr. Harrison of so much
importance that she had said nothing about the others, leaving her
niece at liberty to make what speculations she pleased.
It was a brilliant company which was seated in the dining room a
short while later. As it was assembled in Helen's honor, Aunt Polly
had taken care to bring those who would please the girl, and
represent high life and luxury at its best; all of the guests were
young, and therefore perfect. The members of the "smart set," when
they have passed the third decade, are apt to show signs of
weariness; a little of their beauty and health is gone, and some of
their animation, and all of their joy,--so that one may be led to
ask himself if there be not really something wrong about their views
and ways of living. When they are young, however, they represent the
possibilities of the human animal in all things external. In some
wonderful way known only to themselves they have managed to
manipulate the laws of men so as to make men do for them all the
hard and painful tasks of life, so that they have no care but to
make themselves as beautiful and as clever and as generally
excellent as selfishness can be. Helen, of course, was not in the
least troubled about the selfishness, and she was quite satisfied
with externals. She saw about her perfect toilets and perfect
manners; she saw everyone as happy as she liked everyone to be; and
the result was that her spirits took fire, and she was clever and
fascinating beyond even herself. She carried everything before her,
and performed the real feat of dominating the table by her beauty
and cleveness, without being either presumptuous or vain. Aunt Polly
replied to the delighted looks of her husband at the other end of
the table, and the two only wished that Mr. Harrison had been there
As a matter of fact, Helen had forgotten Mr. Harrison entirely, and
he did not come back to her mind until the dinner was almost over,
when suddenly she heard the bell ring. It was just the time that he
was due to arrive, and so she knew that she would see him in another
half hour. In the exultation of the present moment all of her
hesitation was gone, and she was as ready to meet him as her aunt
could have wished.
When the party rose a few minutes later and went into the parlors
again, Helen was the first to enter, upon the arm of her neighbor.
She was thinking of Mr. Harrison; and as she glanced about her, she
could not keep from giving a slight start. Far down at the other end
of the room she had caught sight of the figure of a man, and her
first thought had been that it must be the millionaire. His frail,
slender form was more than half concealed by the cushions of the
sofa upon which he was seated, but even so, Helen could discover
that he was a slight cripple.
The man rose as the party entered, and Aunt Polly went towards him;
she apparently expected her niece to follow and be introduced to the
stranger, but in the meantime the truth had occurred to Helen, that
it must be the Mr. Howard she had been told of; she turned to one
side with her partner, and began remarking the pictures in the room.
When she found opportunity, she glanced over and saw that the man
had seated himself on the sofa and was talking to Mrs. Roberts. He
looked, as Helen thought, all the invalid her aunt had described him
to be, for his face was white and very wan, so that it made her
shudder. "Dear me!" she exclaimed to herself, "I don't think such a
man ought to go into public." And she turned resolutely away, and
set herself to the task of forgetting him, which she very easily
A merry party was soon gathered about her, rejoicing in the glory of
her presence, and listening to the stories which she told of her
adventures in Europe. Helen kept the circle well in hand that way,
and was equally ready when one of the young ladies turned the
conversation off upon French poetry in the hope of eclipsing her.
Thus her animation continued without rest until Mrs. Roberts
escorted one of the guests to the piano to sing for them.
"She's keeping me for Mr. Harrison," thought Helen, laughing
mischievously to herself; "and I suppose she's picked out the worst
musician first, so as to build up a climax."
It seemed as if that might have been the plan for a fact; the
performer sang part of Gluck's "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice," in strange
French, and in a mournful voice which served very well to display
the incompatibility of the melody and the words. As it happened,
however, Mistress Helen heard not a word of the song, for it had
scarcely begun before she turned her eyes towards the doorway and
caught sight of a figure that drove all other ideas from her mind.
Mr. Harrison had come at last.
He was a tall, dignified man, and Helen's first feeling was of
relief to discover that he was neither coarse-looking, nor even
plain. He had rather too bright a complexion, and rather too large a
sandy mustache, but his clothes fitted him, and he seemed to be at
ease as he glanced about him and waited in the doorway for the young
lady at the piano to finish. While the faint applause was still
sounding he entered with Mrs. Roberts, moving slowly across the
room. "And now!" thought Helen, "now for it!"
As she expected, the two came towards her, and Mr. Harrison was
presented; Helen, who was on the watch with all her faculties,
decided that he bore that trial tolerably, for while his admiration
of course showed itself, he did not stare, and he was not
"I am a little late, I fear," he said; "have I missed much of the
"No," said Helen, "that was the first selection."
"I am glad of that," said the other.
According to the laws which regulate the drifting of conversation,
it was next due that Helen should ask if he were fond of singing;
and then that he should answer that he was very fond of it, which he
"Mrs. Roberts tells me you are a skillful musician," he added; "I
trust that I shall hear you?"
Helen of course meant to play, and had devoted some thought to the
selection of her program; therefore she answered: "Possibly; we
shall see by and by."
"I am told that you have been studying in Germany," was the next
observation. "Do you like Germany?"
"Very much," said Helen. "Only they made me work very hard at music,
and at everything else."
"That is perhaps why you are a good player," said Mr. Harrison.
"You ought to wait until you hear me," the girl replied, following
his example of choosing the most obvious thing to say.
"I fear I am not much of a critic," said the other.
And so the conversation drifted on for several minutes, Mr.
Harrison's remarks being so very uninspiring that his companion
could find no way to change the subject to anything worth talking
"Evidently," the girl thought, during a momentary lull, "he has
learned all the rules of talking, and that's why he's at ease. But
dear me, what an awful prospect! It would kill me to have to do this
often. But then, to be sure I shan't see him in the day time, and in
the evenings we should not be at home. One doesn't have to be too
intimate with one's husband, I suppose. And then--"
"I think," said Mr. Harrison, "that your aunt is coming to ask you
That was Aunt Polly's mission, for a fact, and Helen was much
relieved, for she had found herself quite helpless to lift the
conversation out of the slough of despond into which it had fallen;
she wanted a little time to collect her faculties and think of
something clever to start with again. When in answer to the request
of Aunt Polly she arose and went to the piano, the crushed feeling
of course left her, and her serenity returned; for Helen was at home
at the piano, knowing that she could do whatever she chose, and do
it without effort. It was a stimulus to her faculties to perceive
that a general hush had fallen upon the room, and that every eye was
upon her; as she sat down, therefore, all her old exultation was
She paused a moment to collect herself, and gave one easy glance
down the room at the groups of people. She caught a glimpse as she
did so of Mr. Howard, who was still seated upon the sofa, leaning
forward and resting his chin in his hand and fixing his eyes upon
her. At another time the sight of his wan face might perhaps have
annoyed the girl, but she was carried beyond that just then by the
excitement of the moment; her glance came back to the piano, and
feeling that everyone was attentive and expectant, she began.
Helen numbered in her repertoire a good many pieces that were
hopelessly beyond the technic of the average salon pianist, and she
had chosen the most formidable with which to astonish her hearers
that evening. She had her full share of that pleasure which people
get from concerning themselves with great things: a pleasure which
is responsible for much of the reading, and especially the
discussing, of the world's great poets, and which brings forth many
lofty sentiments from the numerous class of persons who combine
idealism with vanity. Helen's selection was the first movement of
the "Sonata Appassionata," and she was filled with a pleasing sense
of majesty and importance as she began. She liked the first theme
especially because it was striking and dignified and never failed to
attract attention; and in what followed there was room for every
shading of tone, from delicate softness that showed much feeling and
sympathy, to stunning fortissimos that made everyone stare. The girl
was relieved of any possible fear by the certainty that the
composition was completely beyond her hearers' understanding, and so
she soon lost herself in her task, and, as her excitement mounted,
played with splendid spirit and abandon. Her calculations proved
entirely well made, for when she stopped she received a real
ovation, having genuinely astonished her hearers; and she crossed
the room, beaming radiantly upon everyone and acknowledging their
compliments, more assured of triumph than ever before. To cap the
climax, when she reached her seat she found Mr. Harrison betraying
completely his profound admiration, his gaze being riveted upon the
glowing girl as she sat down beside him.
"Miss Davis," he said, with evident sincerity, "that was really
"Thank you very much," said Helen, radiantly.
"It was the most splendid piano playing I have ever heard in my
life," the other went on. "Pray what was it that you
"Oh, no," was the answer, "it is very old indeed."
"Ah," said Mr. Harrison, "those old composers were very great men."
"Yes," said Helen, demurely.
"I was astonished to see with what ease you played," the other
continued, "and yet so marvelously fast! That must be a fearfully
hard piece of music to play."
"Yes, it is," said Helen; "but it is quite exciting," she added,
fanning herself and laughing.
Helen was at the top of her being just then, and in perfect command
of things; she had no idea of letting herself be dragged down into
the commonplace again. "I think it's about time I was fascinating
him," she said to herself, and she started in, full of merriment and
life. Taking her last remark as a cue, she told him funny stories
about the eccentricities of the sonata's great composer, how he
would storm and rage up and down his room like a madman, and how he
hired a boy to pump water over his head by the hour, in case of
Mr. Harrison remarked that it was funny how all musicians were such
queer chaps, but even that did not discourage Helen. She rattled on,
quite as supremely captivating as she had been at the dinner table,
and as she saw that her companion was yielding to her spell, the
color mounted to her cheeks and her blood flowed faster yet.
It is of the nature of such flame to feed itself, and Helen grew the
more exulting as she perceived her success,--and consequently all
the more irresistible. The eyes of the man were soon riveted upon
the gorgeous vision of loveliness before him, and the contagion of
the girl's animation showed itself even in him, for he brightened a
little, and was clever enough to startle himself. It was a new
delight and stimulus to Helen to perceive it, and she was soon swept
away in much the same kind of nervous delight as her phantasy with
the thunderstorm. The sofa upon which the two were seated had been
somewhat apart from the rest, and so they had nothing to disturb
them. A short half hour fled by, during which Helen's daring
animation ruled everything, and at the end of which Mr. Harrison was
quite oblivious to everything about him.
There were others, however, who were watching the affair; the
keen-eyed Aunt Polly was comprehending all with joy, but she was as
ever calculating and prudent, and she knew that Helen's monopoly of
Mr. Harrison would soon become unpleasantly conspicuous, especially
as she had so far introduced him to no one else. She felt that
little would he lost by breaking the spell, for what the girl was
doing then she might do any time she chose; and so after waiting a
while longer she made her way unobtrusively over to them and joined
Helen of course understood her aunt's meaning, and acquiesced; she
kept on laughing and talking for a minute or two more, and then at a
lull in the conversation she exclaimed: "But I've been keeping Mr.
Harrison here talking to me, and nobody else has seen anything of
him." And so Mr. Harrison, inwardly anathematizing the rest of the
company, was compelled to go through a long series of handshakings,
and finally to be drawn into a group of young persons whose
conversation seemed to him the most inane he had ever heard in his
In the meantime someone else was giving a piano selection, one which
Helen had never heard, but which sounded to every one like a finger
exercise after her own meteoric flight; the girl sat half listening
to it and half waiting for her aunt to return, which Mrs. Roberts
finally did, beaming with gratitude.
"My love," she whispered, "you are an angel; you have done better
than I ever dreamed of!"
And Helen felt her blood give a sudden leap that was not quite
pleasant; the surging thoughts that were in her mind at that moment
brought back the nervous trembling she had felt in the carriage, so
that she leaned against the sofa for support.
"Now listen, my dear," the other went swiftly on, perhaps divining
the girl's state, "I want you to do a great favor for me."
"Was not that for you, Auntie?" asked Helen, weakly.
"No, my dear, that was for yourself. But this--"
"What is it?"
"I want you to come and talk to my David Howard a little while."
The girl gave a start, and turned a little paler. "Aunt Polly," she
exclaimed, "not now! He looks so ill, it makes me nervous even to
"But, Helen, my dear, that is nonsense," was the reply. "Mr. Howard
is one of the most interesting men you ever met. He knows more than
all the people in this room together, and you will forget he is an
invalid when you have talked to him a while."
Helen was, or wished to think herself, upon the heights of happiness
just then, and she shrunk more than ever from anything that was
wretched. "Not now, Aunt Polly," she said, faintly. "Please wait
"But, my dear," said Aunt Polly, "now is the very time; you will
wish to be with Mr. Harrison again soon. And you must meet Mr.
Howard, for that is what he came for."
"I suppose then I'll have to," said Helen, knitting her brows; "I'll
stroll over in a minute or two."
"All right," said the other; "and please try to get acquainted with
him, Helen, for I want you to like him."
"I will do my best," said the girl. "He won't talk about his
ailments, will he?"
"No," said the other, laughing, "I fancy not. Talk to him about
music--he's a great musician, you know."
And as her aunt left the room, Helen stole a side glance at the man,
who was alone upon the sofa just then. His chin was still resting in
his hand, and he was looking at Helen as before. As she glanced at
him thus he seemed to be all head, or rather all forehead, for his
brow was very high and white, and was set off by heavy black hair.
"He does look interesting," the girl thought, as she forced a smile
and walked across the room; her aunt entered at the same time, as if
by accident, and the two approached Mr. Howard. As he saw them
coming he rose, with some effort as Helen noticed, and with a very
slight look of pain; it cost her some resolution to give the man her
hand. In a minute or two more, however, they were seated alone upon
the sofa, Aunt Polly having gone off with the remark to Helen that
she had made Mr. Howard promise to talk to her about music, and that
they both knew too much about it for her. "You must tell Helen all
about her playing," she added to him, laughingly.
And then Helen, to carry on the conversation, added, "I should be
very much pleased if you would."
"I am afraid it is an ungracious task Mrs. Roberts has chosen me,"
the man answered, smiling. "Critics are not a popular race."
"It depends upon the critics," said Helen. "They must be sincere."
"That is just where they get into trouble," was the response.
"It looks as if he were going to be chary with his praise," thought
Helen, feeling just the least bit uncomfortable. She thought for a
moment, and then said, not without truth, "You pique my curiosity,
"My criticism could not be technical," said the other, smiling,
again, "for I am not a pianist."
"You play some other instrument?" asked Helen; afterwards she added,
mischievously, "or are you just a critic?"
"I play the violin," the man answered.
"You are going to play for us this evening?"
"No," said the other, "I fear I shall not."
"Why not?" Helen inquired.
"I have not been feeling very well to-day," was the response. "But I
have promised your aunt to play some evening; we had quite a long
"You do not like to play in public?" asked Helen.
The question was a perfectly natural one, but it happened
unfortunately that as the girl asked it her glance rested upon the
figure of her companion. The man chanced to look at her at the same
instant, and she saw in a flash that her thought had been misread.
Helen colored with the most painful mortification; but Mr. Howard
gave, to her surprise, no sign of offense.
"No, not in general," he said, with simple dignity. "I believe that
I am much better equipped as a listener."
Helen had never seen more perfect self-possession than that, and she
felt quite humbled.
It would have been difficult to guess the age of the man beside her,
but Helen noticed that his hair was slightly gray. A closer view had
only served to strengthen her first impression of him, that he was
all head, and she found herself thinking that if that had been all
of him he might have been handsome, tho in a strange, uncomfortable
way. The broad forehead seemed more prominent than ever, and the
dark eyes seemed fairly to shine from beneath it. The rest of the
face, tho wan, was as powerful and massive as the brow, and seemed
to Helen, little used as she was to think of such things, to
indicate character as well as suffering.
"It looks a little like Arthur's," she thought.
This she had been noticing in the course of the conversation; then,
because her curiosity had really been piqued, she brought back the
original topic again. "You have not told me about my playing," she
smiled, "and I wish for your opinion. I am very vain, you know."
(There is wisdom in avowing a weakness which you wish others to
think you do not possess.)
"It gave me great pleasure to watch you," said the man, after a
"To watch me!" thought Helen. "That is a palpable evasion. That is
not criticising my music itself," she said aloud, not showing that
she was a trifle annoyed.
"You have evidently been very well taught," said the
other,--"unusually well; and you have a very considerable technic."
And Helen was only more uncomfortable than ever; evidently the man
would have liked to add a "but" to that sentence, and the girl felt
as if she had come near an icicle in the course of her evening's
triumph. However, she was now still more curious to hear the rest of
his opinion. Half convinced yet that it must be favorable in the
end, she said:
"I should not in the least mind your speaking plainly; the
admiration of people who do not understand music I really do not
care for." And then as Mr. Howard fixed his deep, clear eyes upon
her, Helen involuntarily lowered hers a little.
"If you really want my opinion," said the other, "you shall have it.
But you must remember that it is yourself who leads me to the bad
taste of being serious in company."
That last remark was in Helen's own style, and she looked
interested. For the rest, she felt that she had gotten into grave
trouble by her question; but it was too late to retreat now.
"I will excuse you," she said. "I wish to know."
"Very well, then," said Mr. Howard; "the truth is that I did not
care for your selection."
Helen gave a slight start. "If that is all the trouble, I need not
worry," she thought; and she added easily, "The sonata is usually
considered one of Beethoven's very greatest works, Mr. Howard."
"I am aware of that," said the other; "but do you know how Beethoven
came to compose it?"
Helen had the happy feeling of a person of moderate resources when
the conversation turns to one of his specialties. "Yes," she said;
"I have read how he said 'So pocht das Schicksal auf die Pforte.'
[Footnote: "So knocks Fate upon the door."] Do you understand that,
"Only partly," said the other, very gently; "do you?" And Helen felt
just then that she had made a very awkward blunder indeed.
"Fate is a very dreadful thing to understand, Miss Davis," the other
continued, slowly. "When one has heard the knock, he does not forget
it, and even the echo of it makes him tremble."
"I suppose then," said Helen, glibly, trying to save herself, "that
you think the sonata is too serious to be played in public?"
"Not exactly," was the answer; "it depends upon the circumstances.
There are always three persons concerned, you know. In this case, as
you have pardoned me for being serious, there is in the first place
the great genius with his sacred message; you know how he learned
that his life work was to be ruined by deafness, and how he poured
his agony and despair into his greatest symphony, and into this
sonata. That is the first person, Miss Davis."
He paused for a moment; and Helen took a deep breath, thinking that
it was the strangest conversation she had ever been called upon to
listen to during an evening's merriment. Yet she did not smile, for
the man's deep, resonant voice fascinated her.
"And the second?" she asked.
"The second," said Mr. Howard, turning his dark, sunken eyes full
upon the girl, "is another man, not a genius, but one who has
suffered, I fear, nearly as much as one; a man who is very hungry
for beauty, and very impatient of insincerity, and who is accustomed
to look to the great masters of art for all his help and courage."
Helen felt very uncomfortable indeed.
"Evidently," she said, "I am the third."
"Yes," said Mr. Howard, "the pianist is the third. It is the
pianist's place to take the great work and live it, and study it
until he knows all that it means; and then--"
"I don't think I took it quite so seriously as that," said Helen,
with a poor attempt at humility.
"No," said Mr. Howard, gravely; "it was made evident to me that you
did not by every note you played; for you treated it as if it had
been a Liszt show-piece."
Helen was of course exceedingly angry at those last blunt words; but
she was too proud to let her vexation be observed. She felt that she
had gotten herself into the difficulty by asking for serious
criticism, for deep in her heart she knew that it was true, and that
she would never have dared to play the sonata had she known that a
musician was present. Helen felt completely humiliated, her few
minutes' conversation having been enough to put her out of humor
with herself and all of her surroundings. There was a long silence,
in which she had time to think of what she had heard; she felt in
spite of herself the folly of what she had done, and her whole
triumph had suddenly come to look very small indeed; yet, as was
natural, she felt only anger against the man who had broken the
spell and destroyed her illusion. She was only the more irritated
because she could not find any ground upon which to blame him.
It would have been very difficult for her to have carried on the
conversation after that. Fortunately a diversion occurred, the young
person who had last played having gone to the piano again, this time
with a young man and a violin.
"Aunt Polly has found someone to take your place," said Helen,
forcing a smile.
"Yes," said the other, "she told me we had another violinist."
The violinist played Raff's Cavatina, a thing with which fiddlers
all love to exhibit themselves; he played it just a little off the
key at times, as Helen might have told by watching her companion's
eyebrows. She in the meantime was trying to recover her equanimity,
and to think what else she could say. "He's the most uncomfortable
man I ever met," she thought with vexation. "I wish I'd insisted
upon keeping away from him!"
However, Helen was again relieved from her plight by the fact that
as the fiddler stopped and the faint applause died out, she saw Mr.
Harrison coming towards her. Mr. Harrison had somehow succeeded in
extricating himself from the difficulty in which his hostess had
placed him, and had no doubt guessed that Helen was no better
pleased with her new companion.
"May I join you?" he asked, as he neared the sofa.
"Certainly," said Helen, smiling; she introduced the two men, and
Mr. Harrison sat down upon the other side of the girl. Somehow or
other he seemed less endurable than he had just before, for his
voice was not as soft as Mr. Howard's, and now that Helen's
animation was gone she was again aware of the millionaire's very
"That was a very interesting thing we just heard," he said. "What
was it? Do you know?"
Helen answered that it was Raff's Cavatina.
"Cavatina?" said Mr. Harrison. "The name sounds familiar; I may have
heard it before."
Helen glanced nervously at Mr. Howard; but the latter gave no sign.
"Mr. Howard is himself a violinist," she said. "We must be careful
what criticisms we make."
"Oh, I do not make any--I do not know enough about it," said the
other, with heartiness which somehow seemed to Helen to fail of
deserving the palliating epithet of "bluff."
"Mr. Howard has just been telling me about my own playing," Helen
went on, growing a little desperate.
"I hope he admired it as much as I did," said the unfortunate
"I'm afraid he didn't," said Helen, trying to turn the matter into a
"He didn't!" exclaimed Mr. Harrison, in surprise. "Pray, why not?"
He asked the question of Mr. Howard, and Helen shuddered, for fear
he might begin with that dreadful "There are always three persons
concerned, you know." But the man merely said, very quietly, "My
criticism was of rather a technical nature, Mr. Harrison."
"I'm sure, for my part I thought her playing wonderful," said the
gentleman from Cincinnati, to which the other did not reply.
Helen felt herself between two fires and her vexation was increasing
every moment; yet, try as she might, she could not think of anything
to change the subject, and it was fortunate that the watchful Aunt
Polly was on hand to save her. Mrs. Roberts was too diplomatic a
person not to see the unwisdom of putting Mr. Harrison in a position
where his deficiencies must be so very apparent, and so she came
over, determined to carry one of the two men away. She was relieved
of the trouble by the fact that, as she came near, Mr. Howard rose,
again with some pain as it seemed to Helen, and asked the girl to
excuse him. "I have been feeling quite ill today," he explained.
Helen, as she saw him walk away with Mrs. Roberts, sank back with a
sigh which was only half restrained. "A very peculiar person," said
Mr. Harrison, who was clever enough to divine her vexation."
"Yes," said the girl, "very, indeed."
"He seemed to be lecturing you about something, from what I saw,"
added the other. The remark was far from being in the best taste,
but it pleased Helen, because it went to justify her to herself, and
at the same time offered her an opportunity to vent her feelings.
"Yes," she said. "It was about music; he was very much displeased
"So!" exclaimed Mr. Harrison. "I hope you do not let that disturb
"No," said the girl, laughing,--"or at any rate, I shall soon
recover my equanimity. It is very hard to please a man who plays
himself, you know."
"Or who says he plays," observed Mr. Harrison. "He _didn't_ play,
Helen was pleased to fancy that there might be wisdom in the remark.
"Let us change the subject," she said more cheerfully. "It is best
to forget things that make one feel uncomfortable."
"I'll leave the finding of a new topic to you," replied the other,
with graciousness which did a little more to restore Helen's
self-esteem. "I have a very humble opinion of my own conversation."
"Do you like mine?" the girl asked with a laugh.
"I do, indeed," said Mr. Harrison with equally pleasing frankness.
"I was as interested as could be in the story that you were telling
me when we were stopped."
"Well, we'll begin where we left off!" exclaimed Helen, and felt as
if she had suddenly discovered a doorway leading from a prison. She
found it easy to forget the recent events after that, and Mr.
Harrison grew more tolerable to her every moment now that the other
was gone; her self-possession came back to her quickly as she read
his admiration in his eyes. Besides that, it was impossible to
forget for very long that Mr. Harrison was a multi-millionaire, and
the object of the envious glances of every other girl in the room;
and so when Aunt Polly returned a while later she found the
conversation between the two progressing very well, and in fact
almost as much enjoyed by both as it had been the first time. After
waiting a few minutes she came to ask Helen to sing for the company,
a treat which she had reserved until the last.
Helen's buoyant nature had by that time flung all her doubts behind
her, and this last excitement was all that was needed to sweep her
away entirely again. She went to the piano as exulting as ever in
her command of it and in the homage which it brought her. She sang
an arrangement of the "Preislied," and she sang it with all the
energy and enthusiasm she possessed; partly because she had a really
good voice and enjoyed the song, and partly because an audience
appreciates singing more easily than any other kind of music. She
really scored the success of the evening. Everybody was as
enthusiastic as the limits of good taste allowed, and Helen was
compelled, not in the least against her will, to sing again and
again. While she was laughing with happiness and triumph, something
brought, back "Wohin" to her mind, and she sang it again, quite as
gaily as she had sung it by the streamlet with Arthur. It was enough
to delight even the dullest, and perhaps if Mr. Howard had been
there even he would have applauded a little.
At any rate, as Helen rose from the piano she received a complete
ovation, everyone coming to her to thank her and to praise her, and
to share in the joy of her beauty; she herself had never been more
radiant and more exulting in all her exulting life, drinking in even
Mr. Harrison's rapturous compliments and finding nothing exaggerated
in them. And in the meantime, Aunt Polly having suggested a waltz to
close the festivities, the furniture was rapidly moved to one side,
and the hostess herself took her seat at the piano and struck up the
"Invitation to the Dance;" Mr. Harrison, who had been at Helen's
side since her singing had ceased, was of course her partner, and
the girl, flushed and excited by all the homage she had received,
was soon waltzing delightedly in his arms. The man danced well,
fortunately for him, and that he was the beautiful girl's ardent
admirer was by this time evident, not only to Helen, but to everyone
In the mood that she was then, the fact was as welcome to her as it
could possibly have been, and when, therefore, Mr. Harrison kept her
arm and begged for the next dance, and the next in turn, Helen was
sufficiently carried away to have no wish to refuse him; when after
the third dance she was tired out and sat down to rest, Mr. Harrison
was still her companion.
Helen was at the very height of her happiness then, every trace of
her former vexation gone, and likewise every trace of her objections
to the man beside her. The music was still sounding merrily, and
everyone else was dancing, so that her animation did not seem at all
out of taste; and so brilliant and fascinating had she become, and
so completely enraptured was Mr. Harrison, that he would probably
have capitulated then and there if the dancing had not ceased and
the company separated when it did. The end of all the excitement was
a great disappointment to Helen; she was completely happy just then,
and would have gone just as far as the stream had carried her. It
being her first social experience was probably the reason that she
was less easily wearied than the rest; and besides, when one has
thus yielded to the sway of the senses, he dreads instinctively the
subsiding of the excitement and the awakening of reason.
The awakening, however, is one that must always come; Helen, having
sent away the maid, suddenly found herself standing alone in the
middle of her own room gazing at herself in the glass, and seeing a
frightened look in her eyes. The merry laughter of the guests ceased
gradually, and silence settled about the halls of the great house;
but even then Helen did not move. She was standing there still when
her aunt came into the room.
Mrs. Roberts was about as excited as was possible in a matron of her
age and dignity; she flung her arms rapturously around Helen, and
clasped her to her. "My dear," she cried, "it was a triumph!"
"Yes, Auntie," said Helen, weakly.
"You dear child, you!" went on the other, laughing; "I don't believe
you realize it yet! Do you know, Helen, that Mr. Harrison is madly
in love with you? You ought to be the happiest girl in the land
"Yes, Auntie," said Helen again, still more weakly.
"Come here, my dear," said Mrs. Roberts, drawing her gently over to
the bed and sitting down beside her; "you are a little dazed, I
fancy, and I do not blame you. I should have been beside myself at
your age if such a thing had happened to me; do you realize, child,
what a fortune like Mr. Harrison's is?"
"No," said Helen, "it is very hard, Aunt Polly. I'm afraid about it;
I must have some time to think."
"Think!" laughed the other. "You queer child! My dear, do you
actually mean that you could think of refusing this chance of your
"I don't know," said Helen, trembling; "I don't--"
"Everybody'd think you were crazy, child! I know I should, for one."
And she added, coaxingly, "Let me tell you what Mr. Roberts said."
"He sent you in this message; he's a great person for doing generous
things, when he takes it into his head. He told me to tell you that
if you'd accept Mr. Harrison's offer he would give you the finest
trousseau that he could buy. Wasn't that splendid of him?"
"Yes," said Helen, "thank him for me;" and she shuddered. "Don't
talk to me any more about it now, tho," she pleaded. "Please don't,
Aunt Polly. I was so excited, and it was all like a dream, and I'm
half dazed now; I can't think about it, and I must think, somehow!
It's too dreadful!"
"You shan't think about it tonight, child," laughed the other, "for
I want you to sleep and be beautiful tomorrow. See," she added,
beginning to unfasten Helen's dress, "I'm going to be your little
mother tonight, and put you to bed."
And so, soothing the girl and kissing her burning forehead and
trying to laugh away her fears, her delighted protectress undressed
her, and did not leave her until she had seen her in bed and kissed
her again. "And promise me, child," she said, "that you won't worry
yourself tonight. Go to sleep, and you'll have time to think
Helen promised that she would; but she did not keep her promise. She
heard the great clock in the hallway strike many times, and when the
darkest hours of the night had passed she was sitting up in bed and
gazing about her at the gray shadows in the room, holding the
covering tightly about her, because she was very cold; she was
muttering nervously to herself, half deliriously: "No, no, I will
not do it! They shall not _make_ me do it! I must have time to
And when at last she fell into a restless slumber, that thought was
still in her mind, and those words upon her lips: "I will not do it;
I must have time to think!"
[Music: The opening passage of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata.]
"And yet methinks I see it in thy face,
What them shouldst be: th' occasion speaks thee; and
My strong imagination sees a crown
Dropping upon thy head."
When Helen awoke upon the following morning, the resolution to
withstand her aunt's urging was still strong within her; as she
strove to bring back the swift events of the night before, the first
discovery she made was a headache and a feeling of weariness and
dissatisfaction that was new to her. She arose and looked in the
glass, and seeing that she was pale, vowed again, "They shall not
torment me in this way! I do not even mean that he shall propose to
me; I must have time to realize it!"
And so firm was she in her own mind that she rang the bell and sent
the maid to call her aunt. It was then only nine o'clock in the
morning, and Helen presumed that neither Mrs. Roberts nor any of the
other guests would be awake, they not being fresh from boarding
school as she was; but the girl was so nervous and restless, and so
weighed upon by her urgent resolution, that she felt she could do
nothing else until she had declared it and gotten rid of the matter.
"I'm going to tell her once for all," she vowed; "they shall not
torment me any more."
It turned out, however, that Mrs. Roberts had been up and dressed a
considerable time,--for a reason which, when Helen learned it,
prevented her delivering so quickly the speech she had upon her
mind; she noticed a worried expression upon her aunt's face as soon
as the latter came into the room.
"What is the matter?" she asked, in some surprise.
"A very dreadful misfortune, my dear," said Mrs. Roberts; "I don't
know how to tell you, you'll be so put out."
Helen was quite alarmed as she saw her aunt sink down into a chair;
but then it flashed over her that Mr. Harrison might have for some
reason been called away.
"What is it? Tell me!" she asked eagerly.
"It's Mr. Howard, my dear," said the other; and Helen frowned.
"Oh, bother!" she cried; "what about him?"
"He's been ill during the night," replied Aunt Polly.
"Ill!" exclaimed Helen. "Dear me, what a nuisance!"
"Poor man," said the other, deprecatingly; "he cannot help it."
"Yes," exclaimed Helen, "but he ought not to be here. What is the
matter with him?"
"I don't know," was the reply, "but he has been suffering so all
night that the doctor has had to give him an opiate."
The wan countenance of Mr. Howard rose up before Helen just then,
and she shuddered inwardly.
"Dear me, what a state of affairs!" she exclaimed. "It seems to me
as if I were to have nothing but fright and worry. Why should there
be such things in the world?"
"I don't know, Helen," said the other, "but it is certainly
inopportune for you. Of course the company will all have to leave."
"To leave!" echoed Helen; she had never once thought of that.
"Why, of course," said her aunt. "It would not be possible to enjoy
ourselves under such very dreadful circumstances."
"But, Aunt Polly, that is a shame!" cried the girl. "The idea of so
many people being inconvenienced for such a cause. Can't he be
"The doctor declares it would be impossible at present, Helen, and
it would not look right anyway, you know. He will certainly have to
remain until he is better."
"And how long will that be?"
"A week, or perhaps more," was the reply.
And Helen saw that her promised holiday was ruined; her emotions,
however, were not all of disappointment, for though she was vexed at
the interruptions, she recollected with sudden relief that she could
thus obtain, and without so much effort of her own, the time to
debate the problem of Mr. Harrison. Also there was in her mind, if
not exactly pity for the invalid, at any rate the nearest to it that
Helen had ever learned to feel, an uncomfortable fright at the idea
of such suffering.
"I promise you," said Aunt Polly, who had been watching her face and
trying to read her emotions, "that we shall only postpone the good
time I meant to give you. You cannot possibly be more vexed about it
than I, for I was rejoicing in your triumph with Mr. Harrison."
"I'm not worrying on that account," said Helen, angrily.
"Helen, dear," said Mrs. Roberts, pleadingly, "what can be the
matter with you? I think anyone who was watching you and me would
get the idea that I was the one to whom the fortune is coming. I
suppose that was only one of your jokes, my dear, but I truly don't
think you show a realization of what a tremendous opportunity you
have. You show much more lack of experience than I had any idea
could be possible."
"It isn't that, Aunt Polly," protested Helen; "I realize it, but I
want time to think."
"To think, Helen! But what is there to think? It seems to be madness
to trifle with such a chance."
"Will it be trifling to keep him waiting a while?" asked Helen,
laughing in spite of her vexation.
"Maybe not, my dear; but you ought to know that every other girl in
this house would snap him up at one second's notice. If you'd only
seen them watching you last night as I did."
"I saw a little," was the reply. "But, Aunt Polly, is Mr. Harrison
the only man whom I can find?"
"My husband and I have been over the list of our acquaintances, and
not found anyone that can be compared with him for an instant,
Helen. We know of no one that would do for you that has half as much
"I never said _he'd_ do for me," said Helen, again laughing.
"Understand me, Auntie," she added; "it isn't that I'd not like the
fortune! If I could get it without its attachment--"
"But, my dear, you know you can never get any wealth except by
marriage; what is the use of talking such nonsense, even in fun?"
"But, listen," objected Helen in turn; "suppose I don't want such a
great fortune--suppose I should marry one of these other men?"
"Helen, if you only could know as much as I know about these
things," said Mrs. Roberts, "if you only could know the difference
between being in the middle and at the top of the social ladder!
Dear, why will you choose anything but the best when you can have
the best if you want it? I tell you once for all I do not care how
clever you are, or how beautiful you are, the great people will look
down on you for an upstart if you cannot match them and make just as
much of a show. And why can you not discover what your own tastes
are? I watched you last night, child; anyone could have seen that
you were in your element! You outshone everyone, Helen, and you
should do just the same all your life. Can you not see just what
that means to you?"
"Yes, Auntie," said Helen, "but then--"
"Were you not perfectly happy last night?" interrupted the other.
"No," protested the other, "that's just what I was going to say."
"The only reason in the world why you are not, my dear, is that you
were tormenting yourself with foolish scruples. Can you not see that
if you once had the courage to rid yourself of them it would be all
that you need. Why are you so weak, Helen?"
"It is not weak!" exclaimed the other.
"Yes," asserted Mrs. Roberts, "I say it is weak. It is weak of you
not to comprehend what your life is to be, and what you need for
your happiness. It is a shame for you to make no use of the glorious
gifts that are yours, and to cramp and hinder all your own progress.
I want you to have room to show your true powers, Helen!"
Helen had been leaning over the foot of the bed listening to her
aunt, stirred again by all her old emotion, and angry with herself
for being stirred; her unspoken resolution was not quite so steady
as it had been, tho like all good resolutions it remained in her
mind to torment her.
She sprang up suddenly with a very nervous and forced laugh. "I'm
glad I don't have to argue with you, Auntie," she said, "and that
I'm saved the trouble of worrying myself ill. You see the Fates are
on my side,--I must have time to think, whether I want to or not."
It was that comfort which saved her from further struggle with
herself upon the subject. (Helen much preferred being happy to
struggling.) She set hurriedly to work to dress, for her aunt told
her that the guests were nearly ready for breakfast.
"Nobody could sleep since all the excitement," she said. "I wonder
it did not wake you."
"I was tired," said Helen; "I guess that was it."
"You'll find the breakfast rather a sombre repast," added Mrs.
Roberts, pathetically. "I've been up nearly three hours myself, so
frightened about poor Mr. Howard; I had neveer seen anyone so
dreadfully ill, and I was quite certain he was in his death agony."
"Aunt Polly!" cried Helen with a sudden wild start, "why do you talk
"I won't say any more about it," was the reply, "only hurry up. And
put on your best looks, my dear, for Mr. Harrison to carry away in
"I'll do that much with pleasure," was the answer; "and please have
the maid come up to pack my trunks again; for you won't want me to
stay now, of course."
"Oh, no," said Mrs. Roberts, "not unless you want to. Our house
won't be a very cheerful place, I fear."
"I'll come back in a week or two, when you are ready for me," Helen
added; "in the meantime I can be thinking about Mr. Harrison."
Helen was soon on her way downstairs, for it was terrifying to her
to be alone and in the neighborhood of Mr. Howard. She found a
sombre gathering indeed, for the guests spoke to each other only in
half-whispers, and there were few smiles to be seen. Helen found
herself placed opposite Mr. Harrison at the table, and she had a
chance to study him by glances through the meal. "He's well dressed,
anyway," she mused, "and he isn't altogether bad. I wonder if I'd
_dare_ to marry him."
After breakfast Helen strolled out upon the piazza, perhaps with
some purpose in her mind; for it is not unpleasant to toy with a
temptation, even when one means to resist it. At any rate, she was a
little excited when she heard Mr. Harrison coming out to join her
"Rather a sad ending of our little party, wasn't it, Miss Davis?" he
"Yes," answered the girl, "I feel so sorry for poor Mr. Howard."
"He seemed to be rather ill last night," said the other. He was
going to add that the fact perhaps accounted for the invalid's
severity, but he was afraid of shocking Helen by his levity,--a not
entirely necessary precaution, unfortunately.
"You are going back to town this morning, with the others?" Helen
"No," said Mr. Harrison, somewhat to her surprise; "I have a
"Good Heavens, does he suppose he's going to stay here with me?"
thought the girl.
"I received your aunt's permission to ask you," continued Mr.
Harrison, "and so I need only yours."
"For what?" Helen inquired, with varied emotions.
"To drive you over to Oakdale with my rig," said the other. "I had
it brought down, you know, because I thought there might be a chance
to use it."
Helen had turned slightly paler, and was staring in front of her.
"Are you not fond of driving, then, Miss Davis?" asked the other, as
"Yes," said Helen, "but I don't like to trouble you--"
"I assure you it will be the greatest pleasure in the world," said
Mr. Harrison; "I only regret that I shall not be able to see more of
you, Miss Davis; it is only for the present, I hope."
"Thank you," said Helen, still very faintly.
"And I have a pair of horses that I am rather proud of," added Mr.
Harrison, laughing; "I should like you to tell me what you think of
them. Will you give me the pleasure?"
And Helen could not hesitate very much longer without being rude.
"If you really wish it, Mr. Harrison," she said, "very well." And
then someone else came out on the piazza and cut short the
conversation; Helen had no time to think any more about the matter,
but she had a disagreeable consciousness that her blood was flowing
faster again, and that her old agitation was back in all its
strength. Soon afterwards Mrs. Roberts came out and joined the two.
"Miss Davis has granted me the very great favor," said Mr. Harrison;
"I fear I shall be happier than I ought to be, considering what
suffering I leave behind."
"It will do no good to worry about it," said Mrs. Roberts, a
reflection which often keeps the world from wasting its sympathy. "I
shall have your carriage brought round."
"Isn't it rather early to start?" asked Helen.
"I don't know," said her aunt; "is it?"
"We can take a little drive if it is," said Mr. Harrison; "I mean
that Miss Davis shall think a great deal of my horses."
Helen said nothing, but stood gazing in front of her across the
lawns, her mind in a tempest of emotions. She could not put away
from her the excitement that Mr. Harrison's presence brought; the
visions of wealth and power which gleamed before her almost
overwhelmed her with their vastness. But she had also the memory of
her morning resolve to trouble her conscience; the result was the
same confused helplessness, the dazed and frightened feeling which
she so rebelled against.
"I do not _want_ to be troubled in this way," she muttered angrily
to herself, again and again; "I wish to be let alone, so that I can
Yet there was no chance just then for her to find an instant's
peace, or time for further thought; there were half a dozen people
about her, and she was compelled to listen to and answer commonplace
remarks about the beauty of the country in front of her, and about
her singing on the previous evening.
She had to stifle her agitation as best she could, and almost before
she realized it her aunt had come to summon her to get ready for the
Helen hoped to have a moment's quiet then; but there was nothing to
be done but put on her hat and gloves, and Mrs. Roberts was with her
all the time. "Helen," she said pleadingly, as she watched the girl
surveying herself in the glass, "I do hope you will not forget all
that I told you."
"I wish you would let me alone about it!" cried Helen, very
"If you only knew, my dear girl, how much I have done for you,"
replied the other, "and how I've planned and looked forward to this
time, I don't think you'd answer me in that way."
"It isn't that, Aunt Polly," exclaimed Helen, "but I am so confused
and I don't know what to think."
"I am trying my poor, humble best to show you what to think. And you
could not possibly feel more worried than I just now; Helen, you
could be rid of all these doubts and struggles in one instant, if
you chose. Ask yourself if it is not true; you have only to give
yourself into the arms of the happiness that calls you. And you
never will get rid of the matter in any other way,--indeed you will
not! If you should fling away this chance, the memory of it would
never leave you all your life; after you knew it was too late, you
would torment yourself a thousand times more than ever you can now."
"Oh, dear, dear!" cried Helen, half hysterically; "I can't stand
that, Aunt Polly. I'll do anything, only let me alone! My head is
aching to split, and I don't know where I am."
"And you will never find another chance like it, Helen," went on the
other, with sledge-hammer remorselessness. "For if you behave in
this perfectly insane way and lose this opportunity, I shall simply
give you up in despair at your perversity."
"But I haven't said I was going to lose it," the girl exclaimed. "He
won't be any the less in love with me if I make him wait, Aunt
"Mr. Harrison was going back to Cincinnati in a day or two," put in
Mrs. Roberts, swiftly.