Part 5 out of 7
I've heard enough. Nothing which Mrs. Livingstone could say would
have weighed a straw, but the conviction of my own eyes and ears have
undeceived me, and henceforth 'Lena and I are as strangers."
Nothing could please Mrs. Graham better, for the idea of her son's
marrying a poor, unknown girl, was dreadful, and though she felt
indignant toward her husband so peculiar was her nature that she
would not have had matters otherwise if she could and when Durward,
who disliked _scenes_, suggested the propriety of her not speaking to
his father on the subject at present he assented, saying that it
would be more easy for her to refrain, as she was intending to start
for Louisville on the morrow.
"I've been contemplating a visit there for some time and before Mr.
Graham left home this morning, I had decided to go," said she, at the
same time proposing that Durward should accompany her.
To this consented willingly, for in the first shock of his
disappointment, a change of place and scene was what he most desired.
The hot blood of the south, which burned in his veins, seemed all on
fire, and he felt that he could not, for the present, at least be
daily associated with his stepfather. An absence of several days, he
thought, might have the effect of calming him down. It was
accordingly decided that he should on the morrow, start with her for
Louisville, to be gone two weeks; and with this understanding they
parted, Durward going to his own chamber, there to review the past
and strive, if possible, to efface from his heart every memory of
'Lena, whom he had loved so well. But 'twas all in vain; he could
not so soon forget her and far into the hours of night he sat alone
striving to frame some excuse for her conduct. The fact that his
father possessed her daguerreotype might possibly be explained,
without throwing censure upon her; but the falsehood--never; and with
the firm conviction that she was lost to him forever, he at last
retired to rest, just as the clock in the ball below proclaimed the
hour of midnight.
Meantime, Mrs. Graham was pondering in her own mind the probable
result of a letter which, in the heat of passion, she had that day
dispatched to 'Lena, accusing her of "marring the domestic peace of a
hitherto happy family," and while she cast some reflections upon her
birth, commanding her never, under any circumstances, "to venture
into her presence!"
This cruel letter had been sent to the office before Durward's
return, and as she well knew how much he would disapprove of it, she
resolved not to tell him, secretly hoping 'Lena would keep her own
counsel. "Base creature!" said she, "to give my husband her
likeness--but he shall never see it again;" and with stealthy step
she advanced toward the secret drawer, which she again opened, and
taking from it both daguerreotype and ringlet, locked it, replacing
the key in the pocket where she found it. Then seizing the long,
bright curl, she hurled it into the glowing grate, shuddering as she
did so, and trembling, as if she really knew a wrong had been done to
Opening the case, she looked once more upon the hated features, which
now seemed to regard her mournfully, as if reproaching her for what
she had done. No part of the dress was visible--nothing except the
head and neck, which was uncovered, and over which fell the chestnut
curls, whose companion so recently lay seething and scorching on the
There was a footstep without--her husband had returned--and quick as
thought was the daguerreotype concealed, while Mrs. Graham, forcing
down her emotion, took up a book, which she seemed to be intently
reading when her husband entered. After addressing to her a few
commonplace remarks, all of which she answered civilly, he went to
the wardrobe, and on pretense of looking for his knife, which, he
said he believed he left in his vest pocket, he took out the key, and
then carelessly proceeded to unlock his private drawer, his wife
watching him the while, and keenly enjoying his look of consternation
when he saw that his treasure was gone. Again and again was his
drawer searched, but all to no purpose, and casting an anxious glance
toward his wife, whose face, for a wonder, betrayed no secret, he
commenced walking the floor in a very perturbed state of mind, his
wife exulting in his discomfiture, and thinking herself amply avenged
for all that she had endured.
At last he spoke, telling her of a letter which he had that day
received from South Carolina, containing the news of the death of a
distant relative, who had left him some property. "It is not
necessary for me to be there in person," said he, "but still I should
like to visit my old home once more. What do you think of it?"
"Go, by all means," said she, glad of anything which would place
distance between him and 'Lena. "No one can attend to your business
one-half as well as yourself. When will you start if you go?"
"Immediately--before your return from Louisville--unless you wish to
"I'm afraid I should be an incumbrance, and would rather not," said
she, in a way which puzzled him, causing him to wonder what had come
"You can do as you choose," said he, "but I should be glad of your
"No, I thank you," was her laconic reply, as she, in turn, wondered
what had come over him.
The next morning the carriage came up to the door to convey Mrs.
Graham and Durward to Frankfort. The latter was purposely late, and
he did not see his father until he came down, traveling-bag in hand,
to enter the carriage. Then Mr. Graham asked, in some surprise,
"where he was going?"
"With my mother to Louisville, sir," answered Durward, stiffly. "I
am not willing she should travel alone, if you are;" and he sprang
into the carriage, ordering the coachman to drive off ere another
word could be spoken.
"Gone, when I had nerved myself to tell him everything!--my usual
luck!" mused Mr. Graham, as he returned to the house, and sure of no
prying eyes, recommenced his search for the daguerreotype, which was
nowhere to be found. Could she have found it? Impossible! for it
was not in her jealous nature to have held her peace; and again he
sought for it, but all to no purpose, and finally thinking he must
have taken it with him and lost it, he gave it up, mourning more for
the loss of the curl, which could never, never be replaced, while the
picture might be found.
"Why do I live so?" thought he, as he nervously paced the room. "My
life is one of continual fear and anxiety, but it shall be so no
longer. I'll tell her all when she returns. I'll brave the world,
dare her displeasure, take 'Lena home, and be a man."
Satisfied with this resolution, and nothing doubting that he should
keep it, he started for Versailles, where he had an engagement with a
gentleman who transacted business for him in Lexington.
THE LETTER AND ITS EFFECT.
Mabel had gone out, and 'Lena sat alone in the little room adjoining
the parlor which Mr. Douglass termed his library, but which Nellie
had fitted up for a private sewing-room. It was 'Lena's favorite
resort when she wished to be alone, and as Mabel was this morning
absent, she had retired thither, not to work, but to think--to recall
every word and look of Durward's, to wonder when and how he would
repeat the question, the answer to which had been prevented by Mr.
Many and blissful were her emotions as she sat there, wondering if it
were not a bright dream, from which she would too soon awaken, for
could it be that one so noble, so good, and so much sought for as
Durward Bellmont had chosen her, of all others, to be his bride?
Yes, it must be so, for he was not one to say or act what he did not
mean; he would come that day and repeat what he had said before; and
she blushed as she thought what her answer would be.
There was a knock on the door, and a servant entered, bringing her a
letter, which she eagerly seized, thinking it was from him. But
'twas not his writing, though bearing the post-mark of Versailles.
Hastily she broke the seal, and glancing at the signature, turned
pale, for it was "Lucy Graham," his mother, who had written, but for
what, she could not guess. A moment more and she fell back on the
sofa, white and rigid as a piece of marble. 'Twas a cruel and
insulting letter, containing many dark insinuations, which she, being
wholly innocent; could not understand. She knew indeed, that Mr.
Graham had presented her with Vesta, but was there anything wrong in
that? She did not think so, else she had never taken her. Her
uncle, her cousin, and Durward, all three approved of her accepting
it, the latter coming with it himself--so it could not be that; and
for a long time Lena wept passionately, resolving one moment to
answer the letter as it deserved determining, the next, to go herself
and see Mrs. Graham face to face; and then concluding to treat it
with silent contempt, trusting that Durward would erelong appear and
make it all plain between them.
At last, about five o'clock, Mabel returned, bringing the
intelligence that Mrs. Graham was in the city, at the Weisiger House,
where she was going to remain until the morrow. She had met with an
accident, which prevented her arrival in Frankfort until the train
which she was desirous of taking had left.
"Is her husband with her?" asked 'Lena, to which Mabel replied, that
she understood she was alone.
"Then I'll see her and know what she means," thought 'Lena,
trembling, even then, at the idea of venturing into the presence of
the cold, haughty woman.
* * * * * *
Supper was over at the Weisiger House, and in a handsome private
parlor Mrs. Graham lay, half asleep, upon the sofa, while in the
dressing-room adjoining Durward sat, trying to frame a letter which
should tell poor 'Lena that their intimacy was forever at an end.
For hours, and until the last gleam of daylight had faded away, he
had sat by the window, watching each youthful form which passed up
and, down the busy street, hoping to catch a glimpse of her who once
had made his world. But his watch was in vain, and now he had sat
down to write, throwing aside sheet after sheet, as he thought its
beginning too cold, too harsh, or too affectionate. He was about
making up his mind not to write at all, but to let matters take their
course, when a knock at his mother's door, and the announcement that
a lady wished to see her arrested his attention.
"Somebody want to see me? Just show her up," said Mrs. Graham,
smoothing down her flaxen hair, and wiping from between her eyes a
spot of powder which the opposite mirror revealed.
In a moment the visitor entered--a slight, girlish form, whose
features were partially hidden from view by a heavy lace veil, which
was thrown over her satin hood. A single glance convinced Mrs.
Graham that it was a lady, a well-bred lady, who stood before her,
and very politely she bade her be seated.
Rather haughtily the proffered chair was declined, while the veil was
thrown aside, disclosing to the astonished gaze of Mrs. Graham the
face of 'Lena Rivers, which was unnaturally pale, while her dark eyes
grew darker with the intensity of her feelings.
"'Lena Rivers! why came you here?" she asked, while at the mention of
that name Durward started to his feet, but quickly resumed his seat,
listening with indescribable emotions to the sound of a voice which
made every nerve quiver with pain.
"You ask me why I am here, madam," said 'Lena. "I came to seek an
explanation from you--to know of what I am accused--to ask why you
wrote me that insulting letter--me, an orphan girl, alone and
unprotected in the world, and who never knowingly harmed you or
"Never harmed me or mine!" scornfully repeated Mrs. Graham. "Don't
add falsehood to your other sins--though, if you'll lie to my son,
you of course will to me, his mother."
"Explain yourself, madam, if you please," exclaimed 'Lena, her olden
temper beginning to get the advantage of her.
"And what if I do not please?" sneeringly asked Mrs. Graham.
"Then I will compel you to do so, for my good name is all I have, and
it shall not be wrested from me without an effort on my part to
preserve it," answered 'Lena.
"Perhaps you expect my husband to stand by you and help you. I am
sure it would be very ungentlemanly in him to desert you, now," said
Mrs. Graham, her manner conveying far more meaning than her words.
'Lena trembled from head to foot, and her voice was hardly distinct
as she replied, "Will you explain yourself, or will you not? What
have I done, that you should treat me thus?"
"Done? Done enough, I should think! Haven't you whiled him away
from me with your artful manners? Has he ever been the same man
since he saw you? Hasn't he talked of you in his sleep? made you
most valuable presents which a true woman would have refused? and in
return, haven't you bestowed upon him your daguerreotype, together
with a lock of your hair, on which you no doubt pride yourself, but
which to me and my son seem like so many coiling serpents?"
'Lena had sat down. She could stand no longer, and burying her face
in her hands, she waited until Mrs. Graham had finished. Then,
lifting up her head, she replied in a voice far more husky than the
one in which she before had spoken--"You accuse me wrongfully, Mrs.
Graham, for as I hope for heaven, I never entertained a feeling for
your husband which I would not have done for my own father, and
indeed, he has seemed to me more like a parent than a friend----"
"Because you fancied he might some day be one, I dare say,"
interrupted Mrs. Graham.
'Lena paid no attention to this sarcastic remark, but continued: "I
know I accepted Vesta, but I never dreamed it was wrong, and if it
was, I will make amends by immediately returning her, for much as I
love her, I shall never use her again."
"But the daguerreotype?" interrupted Mrs. Graham, anxious to reach
that point. "What have you to say about the daguerreotype? Perhaps
you will presume to deny that, too."
Durward had arisen, and now in the doorway watched 'Lena, whose dark
brown eyes flashed fire as she answered, "It is false, madam. You
know it is false. I never yet have had my picture taken."
"But he has it in his possession; how do you account for that?"
"Again I repeat, that is false!" said 'Lena, while Mrs. Graham,
strengthened by the presence of her son, answered, "I can prove it,
"I defy you to do so," said 'Lena, strong in her own innocence.
"Shall I show it to her, Durward," asked Mrs. Graham, and 'Lena,
turning suddenly round, became for the first time conscious of his
With a cry of anguish she stretched her arms imploringly toward him,
asking him, in piteous tones, to save her from his mother. Durward
would almost have laid down his life to prove her innocent, but he
felt that could not be. So he made her no reply, and in his eye she
read that he, too, was deceived. With a low, wailing moan she again
covered her face with her hands, while Mrs. Graham repeated her
question, "Shall I show it to her?"
Durward was not aware that she had it in her possession, and he
answered, "Why do you ask, when you know you cannot do so?"
Oh, how joyfully 'Lena started up; he did not believe it, after all,
and if ever a look was expressive of gratitude, that was which she
gave to Durward, who returned her no answering glance, save one of
pity; and again that wailing cry smote painfully on his ear. Taking
the case from her pocket, Mrs. Graham advanced toward 'Lena, saying,
"Here, see for yourself, and then deny it if you can."
But 'Lena had no power to take it. Her faculties seemed benumbed and
Durward, who, with folded arms and clouded brow stood leaning against
the mantel, construed her hesitation into guilt, which dreaded to be
"Why don't you take it?" persisted Mrs. Graham. "You defied me to
prove it, and here it is. I found it in my husband's private drawer,
together with one of those long curls, which last I burned out of my
Durward shuddered, while 'Lena involuntarily thought of the mass of
wavy tresses which they had told her clustered around her mother's
face, as she lay in her narrow coffin. Why thought she of her mother
then? Was it because they were so strangely alike, that any allusion
to her own personal appearance always reminded her of her lost
parent? Perhaps so. But to return to our story 'Lena would have
sworn that the likeness was not hers, and still an undefined dread
crept over her, preventing her from moving.
"You seem so unwilling to be convinced, allow me to assist you," said
Mrs. Graham, at the same time unclasping the case and holding to view
the picture, on which with wondering eyes, 'Lena gazed in
"It is I--it is; but oh, heaven, how came he by it?" she gasped, and
the next moment she fell fainting at Durward's feet.
In an instant he was bending over her, his mother exclaiming, "Pray,
don't touch her--she does it for effect."
But he knew better. He knew there was no feigning the corpse-like
pallor of that face, and pushing his mother aside, he took the
unconscious girl in his arms, and bearing her to the sofa, laid her
gently upon it, removing her hand and smoothing back from her cold
brow the thick, clustering curls which his mother had designated as
"Do not ring and expose her to the idle gaze of servants," said he,
to his mother, who had seized the bell-rope. "Bring some water from
your bedroom, and we will take charge of her ourselves."
There was something commanding in the tones of his voice, and Mrs.
Graham, now really alarmed at the deathly appearance of 'Lena,
hastened to obey. When he was alone, Durward bent down, imprinting
upon the white lips a burning kiss--the first he had ever given her.
In his heart he believed her unworthy of his love, and yet she had
never seemed one-half so dear to him as at that moment, when she lay
there before him helpless as an infant, and all unmindful of the
caresses which he lavished upon her. "If it were indeed death;" he
thought, "and it had come upon her while yet she was innocent, I
could have borne it, but now I would I had never seen her;" and the
tears which fell like rain upon her cheek, were not unworthy of the
strong man who shed them. The cold water with which they profusely
bathed her face and neck, restored her, and then Durward, who could
bear the scene no longer, glided silently into the next room.
When he was gone, Mrs. Graham, who seemed bent upon tormenting 'Lena,
asked "what she thought about it now?"
"Please don't speak to me again, for I am very, very wretched," said
'Lena softly, while Mrs. Graham continued: "Have you nothing to offer
"Nothing, nothing--it is a dark mystery to me, and I wish that I was
dead," answered 'Lena, sobbing passionately.
"Better wish to live and repent," said Mrs. Graham, beginning to read
her a long sermon on her duty, to which 'Lena paid no attention, and
the moment she felt that she could walk, she arose to go.
The moon was shining brightly, and as Mr. Douglass lived not far
away, Mrs. Graham did not deem an escort necessary. But Durward
thought differently. He could not walk with her side by side, as he
had often done before, but he would follow at a distance, to see that
no harm came near her. There was no danger of his being discovered,
for 'Lena was too much absorbed in her own wretchedness to heed aught
about her, and in silence he walked behind her until he saw the door
of Mr. Douglass's house close upon her. Then feeling that there was
an inseparable barrier between them, he returned to his hotel, where
he found his mother exulting over the downfall of one whom, for some
reason, she had always disliked.
"Didn't she look confounded, though, when I showed her the picture?"
said she; to which Durward replied, by asking "when and why she sent
"I did it because I was a mind to, and I am not sorry for it,
either," was Mrs. Graham's crusty answer, whereupon the conversation
was dropped, and as if by a tacit agreement, the subject was not
again resumed during their stay in Louisville.
* * * * * *
It would be impossible to describe 'Lena's emotion as she returned to
the house. Twice in the hall was she obliged to grasp at the
banister to keep from falling, and knowing that such excessive
agitation would be remarked, she seated herself upon the stairs until
she felt composed enough to enter the parlor. Fortunately, Mabel was
alone, and so absorbed in the fortunes of "Uncle True and little
Gerty," as scarcely to notice 'Lena at all. Once, indeed, as she sat
before the grate so motionless and still, Mabel looked up, and
observing how white she was, asked what was the matter.
"A bad headache," answered 'Lena, at the same time announcing her
intention of retiring.
"Alone in her room, her feelings gave way, and none save those who
like her have suffered, can conceive of her anguish, as prostrate
upon the floor she lay, her long silken curls falling about her white
face, which looked ghastly and haggard by the moonlight that fell
softly about her, as if to soothe her woe.
"What is it," she cried aloud--"this dark mystery, which I cannot
The next moment she thought of Mr. Graham. He could explain it--he
must explain it. She would go to him the next day, asking him what
it meant. She felt sure that he could make it plain, for suspicious
as matters looked, she exculpated him from any wrong intention toward
her. Still she could not sleep, and when the gray morning light
crept in, it found her too much exhausted to rise.
For several days she kept her room, carefully attended by Mabel and
her grandmother, who, at the first intimation of her illness,
hastened down to nurse her. Every day did 'Lena ask of Mr. Douglass
if Mr. Graham had been in the city, saying that the first time he
came she wished to see him. Days, however, went by, and nothing was
seen or heard from him, until at last John Jr.; who visited her
daily, casually informed her that Mr. Graham had been unexpectedly
called away to South Carolina. A distant relative of his had died,
bequeathing him a large property, which made it necessary for him to
go there immediately; so without waiting for the return of his wife,
he had started off, leaving Woodlawn alone.
"Gone to South Carolina!" exclaimed 'Lena. "When will he return?"
"Nobody knows. He's away from home more than half the time, just as
I should be if Mrs. Graham were my wife," answered John Jr., at the
same time playfully remarking that 'Lena need not look so blank, as
it was not Durward who had gone so far.
For an instant 'Lena resolved to tell him everything and ask him what
to do, but knowing how impetuous he was when at all excited, she
finally decided to keep her own secret, determining, however, to
write to Mr. Graham, as soon as she was able. Just before John Jr.
left her, she called him to her side, asking him if he would do her
the favor of seeing that Vesta was sent back to Woodlawn, as she did
not wish for her any longer.
"What the plague is that for--has mother been raising a row?" asked
John Jr., and 'Lena replied, "No, no, your mother has nothing to do
with it. I only want Vesta taken home. I cannot at present tell you
why, but I have a good reason, and some time, perhaps, I'll explain.
You'll do it, won't you?"
With the determination of questioning Durward as to what had
happened, John Jr. promised, and when Mrs. Graham and her son
returned from Louisville, they found Vesta safely stabled with their
other horses, while the saddle with its tiny slipper hung upon a
beam, and seemingly looked down with reproach upon Durward, who
turned away with a bitter pang as he thought of the morning when he
first took it to Maple Grove.
The next day was dark and rainy, precluding all outdoor exercise, and
weary, sad, and spiritless, Durward repaired to the library, where,
for an hour or more, he sat musing dreamily of the past--of the
morning, years ago, when first he met the little girl who had since
grown so strongly into his love, and over whom so dark a shadow had
fallen. A heavy knock at the door, and in a moment John Jr.
appeared, with dripping garments and a slightly scowling face. There
was a faint resemblance between him and 'Lena, manifest in the soft,
curling hair and dark, lustrous eyes. Durward had observed it
before--he thought of it now--and glad to see any one who bore the
least resemblance to her, he started up, exclaiming, "Why,
Livingstone, the very one of all the world I am glad to see."
John made no reply, but shaking the rain-drops from his overcoat,
which he carelessly threw upon the floor, he took a chair opposite
the grate, and looking Durward fully in the face, said, "I've come
over, Bellmont, to ask you a few plain, unvarnished questions, which
I believe you will answer truthfully. Am I right?"
"Certainly, sir--go on," was Durward's reply.
"Well, then, to begin, are you and 'Lena engaged?"
"Have you been engaged?"
"Do you ever expect to be engaged?"
"Have you quarreled?"
"Do you know why she wished to have Vesta sent home?"
"I suppose I do."
"Will you tell me?"
"No, sir," said Durward, determined, for 'Lena's sake, that no one
should wring from him the secret.
John Jr. arose, jammed both hands into his pockets--walked to the
window--made faces at the weather--walked back to the grate--made
faces at that--kicked it--and then turning to Durward, said, "There's
the old Nick to pay, somewhere."
Nothing from Durward, who only felt bound to answer direct questions.
"I tell you, there's the old Nick to pay, somewhere," continued John,
raising his voice. "I knew it all the while 'Lena was sick. I read
it in her face when I told her Mr. Graham had gone south----"
A faint sickness gathered around Durward's heart, and John Jr.
proceeded: "She wouldn't tell me, and I've come to you for
information. Will you give it to me?"
"No, sir," said Durward. "The nature of our trouble is known only to
ourselves and one other individual, and I shall never divulge the
"Is that other individual my mother?"
"Is it Cad?"
"Had they any agency in the matter?"
"None, whatever, that I know of."
"Then I'm on the wrong track, and may as well go home," said John
Jr., starting for the door, where he stopped, while he added, "If,
Bellmont, I ever do hear of your having misled me in this matter----"
He did not finish the sentence in words, but playfully producing a
revolver, he departed. The next moment he was dashing across the
lawn, the mud flying in every direction, and himself thinking how
useless it was to try to unravel a love quarrel.
In the meantime, 'Lena waited impatiently for an answer to the letter
which she had sent to Mr. Graham, but day after day glided by, and
still no tidings came. At last, as if everything had conspired
against her, she heard that he was lying dangerously ill of a fever
at Havana, whither he had gone in quest of an individual whose
presence was necessary in the settlement of the estate.
The letter which brought this intelligence to Mrs. Graham, also
contained a request that she would come to him immediately, and
within a few days after its receipt, she started for Cuba, together
with Durward, who went without again seeing 'Lena.
They found him better than they expected. The danger was past, but
he was still too weak to move himself, and the physician said it
would be many weeks ere he was able to travel. This rather pleased
Mrs. Graham than otherwise. She was fond of change, and had often
desired to visit Havana, so now that she was there, she made the best
of it, and for once in her life enacted the part of a faithful,
Often, during intervals of mental aberration, Mr. Graham spoke of
"Helena," imploring her forgiveness for his leaving her so long, and
promising to return. Sometimes he spoke of her as being dead, and in
piteous accents he would ask of Durward to bring him back his
"beautiful 'Lena," who was sleeping far away among the New England
One day when the servant, as usual, came in with their letters, he
brought one directed to Mr. Graham, which had been forwarded from
Charleston, and which bore the post-marks of several places, it
having been sent hither and thither, ere it reached its place of
destination. It was mailed at Frankfort, Kentucky, and in the
superscription Durward readily recognized the handwriting of 'Lena.
"Worse and worse," thought he, now fully assured of her worthlessness.
For a moment he felt tempted to break the seal, but from this act he
instinctively shrank, thinking that whatever it might contain, it was
not for him to read it. But what should he do with it? Must he give
it to his mother who already had as much as she could bear? No,
'twas not best for her to know aught about it, and as the surest
means of preventing its doing further trouble, he destroyed
it--burned it to ashes--repenting the next moment of the deed,
wishing he had read it, and feeling not that he had wronged the dead,
as his mother did when she burned the chestnut curl, but as if he had
done a wrong to 'Lena.
In the course of two months he went back to Woodlawn, leaving his
father and mother to travel leisurely from place to place, as the
still feeble state of the former would admit. 'Lena, who had
returned from Frankfort, trembled lest he should come to Maple Grove,
but he seemed equally desirous of avoiding a meeting, and after
lingering about Woodlawn for several days, he suddenly departed for
Louisville, where, for a time, we leave him, while we follow the
fortunes of others connected with our story.
JOHN JR. AND MABEL.
Time and absence had gradually softened John Jr.'s feelings toward
Nellie. She was not married to Mr. Wilbur--possibly she never would
be--and if on her return to America he found her the same, he would
lose no time in seeing her, and, if possible, secure her to himself.
Such was the tenor of his thoughts, as on one bright morning in June
he took his way to Lexington, whither he was going on business for
his father. Before leaving the city, he rode down to the depot, as
was his usual custom, reaching there just as the cars bound for
Frankfort were rolling away. Upon the platform of the rear car stood
an acquaintance of his, who called out, "Halloo, Livingstone, have
you heard the news?"
"News, no. What news?" asked John Jr., following after the fast
"Bob Wilbur and Nellie Douglass are married," screamed the young man,
who, having really heard of Mr. Wilbur's marriage, supposed it must
of course be with Nellie.
John Jr. had no doubt of it, and for a moment his heart fainted
beneath the sudden blow. But he was not one to yield long to
despair, and soon recovering from the first shock, he raved in
uncontrollable fury, denouncing Nellie as worthless, fickle, and good
for nothing, mentally wishing her much joy with her husband, who in
the same breath he hoped "would break his confounded neck," and
ending his tirade by solemnly vowing to offer himself to the first
girl he met, whether black or white!
Full of this resolution he put spurs to Firelock and sped away over
the turnpike, looking neither to the right nor the left, lest a
chance should offer for the fulfillment of his vow. It was the dusk
of evening when he reached home, and giving his horse into the care
of a servant, he walked with rapid strides into the parlor, starting
back as he saw _Mabel Ross_, who, for a few days past, had been
visiting at Maple Grove.
"There's no backing out," thought he. "It's my destiny, and I'll
meet it like a man. Nellie spited me, and I'll let her know how good
"Mabel," said he, advancing toward her, "will you marry me? Say yes
or no quick."
This was not quite the kind of wooing which Mabel had expected.
'Twas not what she read of in novels, but then it was in keeping with
the rest of John Jr.'s conduct, and very frankly and naturally she
"Very well," said he, beginning to feel better already, and turning
to leave the room--"Very well, you fix the day, and arrange it all
yourself, only let it be very soon, for now I've made up my mind, I'm
in a mighty hurry."
Mabel laughed, and hardly knowing whether he were in earnest or not,
asked "if she should speak to the minister, too."
"Yes, no," said he. "Just tell mother, and she'll fix it all right.
And he walked away, feeling nothing, thinking nothing, except that he
was engaged. Engaged! The very idea seemed to add new dignity to
_him_, while it invested Mabel with a charm she had not hitherto
possessed. John Jr. liked everything that belonged to him
exclusively, and Mabel now was his--his wife she would be--and when
next he met her in the drawing-room, his manner toward her was
unusually kind, attracting the attention of his mother, who wondered
at the change. One after another the family retired, until there was
no one left in the parlor except Mabel and Mrs. Livingstone, who, as
her husband chanced to be absent, had invited her young visitor to
share her room. When they were alone, Mabel, with many blushes and a
few tears, told of all that had occurred, except, indeed, of John's
manner of proposing, which she thought best not to confide to a third
Eagerly Mrs. Livingstone listened, mentally congratulating herself
upon the completion of her plan without her further interference,
wondering the while how it had been so suddenly brought about, and
half trembling lest it should prove a failure after all. So when
Mabel spoke of John Jr.'s wish that the marriage should be
consummated immediately, she replied, "Certainly--by all means.
There is no necessity for delay. You can marry at once, and get
ready afterwards. It is now the last of June. I had thought of
going to Saratoga in July, and a bride is just the thing to give
eclat to our party."
"But," answered Mabel, who hardly fancied a wedding without all the
usual preparations, which she felt she should enjoy so much, "I
cannot think of being married until October, when Nellie perhaps will
Nellie's return was what Mrs. Livingstone dreaded, and very
ingeniously she set herself at work to put aside Mabel's objections,
succeeding so far that the young girl promised compliance with
whatever she should think proper. The next morning, as John Jr. was
passing through the hall, she called him into her room, delicately
broaching the subject of his engagement, saying she knew he could not
help loving a girl possessed of so many excellent qualities as Mabel
Ross. Very patiently John Jr. heard her until she came to speak of
love. Then, in much louder tones than newly engaged men are apt to
speak of their betrothed, he exclaimed, "Love! Fudge! If you think
I'm marrying Mabel for love, you are greatly mistaken, I like her,
but love is out of the question."
"Pray what are you marrying her for? Her property?"
"Property!" repeated John, with a sneer, "I've seen the effect of
marrying for property, and I trust I'm not despicable enough to try
it for myself. No, madam, I'm not marrying her for money--but to
spite Nellie Douglass, if you must know the reason. I've loved her
as I shall never again love womankind, but she cheated me. She's
married to Robert Wilbur, and now I've too much spirit to have her
think _I_ care. If she can marry, so can I--she isn't the only girl
in the world--and when I heard what she had done, I vowed I'd offer
myself to the first female I saw. As good or bad luck would have it,
'twas Mabel, who you know said yes, of course, for I verily believe
she likes me far better than I deserve. What kind of a husband I
shall make, the Lord only knows, but I'm in for it. My word is
passed, and the sooner you get us tied together the better, but for
heaven's sake, don't go to making a great parade. Mabel has no
particular home. She's here now, and why not let the ceremony take
place here. But fix it to suit yourselves, only don't let me hear
you talking about it, for fear I'll get sick of the whole thing."
This was exactly what Mrs. Livingstone desired. She had the day
before been to Frankfort herself, learning from Mrs. Atkins of Mr.
Wilbur's marriage with the English girl. She knew her son was
deceived, and it was highly necessary that he should continue so.
She felt sure that neither her daughters, Mabel, nor 'Lena knew of
Mr. Wilbur's marriage, and she resolved they should not. It was
summer, and as many of their city friends had left Frankfort for
places of fashionable resort, they received but few calls; and by
keeping them at home until the wedding was over, she trusted that all
would be safe in that quarter. Durward, too, was fortunately absent,
so she only had to deal with Mabel and John Jr. The first of these
she approached very carefully, casually telling her of Mr. Wilbur's
marriage, and then hastily adding, "But pray don't speak of it to any
one, as there are special reasons why it should not at present be
discussed. Sometime I may tell you the reason."
Mabel wondered why so small a matter should be a secret, but Mrs.
Livingstone had requested her to keep silence and that was a
sufficient reason why she should do so. The next step was to win her
consent for the ceremony to take place there, and in the course of
three weeks, saying that it was her son's wish. But on this point
she found more difficulty than she had anticipated, for Mabel shrank
from being married at the house of his father.
"It didn't look right," said she, "and she knew Mr. Douglass would
not object to having it there."
Mrs. Livingstone knew so, too, but there was too much danger in such
an arrangement, and she replied, "Of course not, if you request it,
but will it be quite proper for you to ask him to be at all that
trouble when Nellie is gone, and there is no one at home to
So after a time Mabel was convinced, thinking, though, how
differently everything was turning out from what she expected. Three
weeks from that night was fixed upon for the bridal, to which but few
were to be invited, for Mrs. Livingstone did not wish to call forth
"Everything should be done quietly and in order," she said, "and
then, when autumn came, she would give a splendid party in honor of
Mr. Douglass, when told of the coming event by Mrs. Livingstone, who
would trust no one else, expressed much surprise, saying he greatly
preferred that the ceremony should take place at his own house.
"Of course," returned the oily-tongued woman, "of course you had, but
even a small wedding party is a vast amount of trouble, and in
Nellie's absence you would be disturbed. Were she here I would not
say a word, but now I insist upon having it my own way, and indeed, I
think my claim upon Mabel is the strongest."
Silenced, but not quite convinced, Mr. Douglass said no more,
thinking, meanwhile, that if he only _could_ afford it, Mabel should
have a wedding worthy of her. But he could not; he was poor, and
hence Mrs. Livingstone's arguments prevailed the more easily.
Fortunately for her, John Jr. manifested no inclination to go out at
all. A kind of torpor seemed to have settled upon him, and day after
day he remained at home, sometimes in a deep study in his own room,
and sometimes sitting in the parlor, where his very unlover-like
deportment frequently brought tears to Mabel's eyes, while Carrie
loudly denounced him as the most clownish fellow she ever saw.
"I hope you'll train him, Mabel," said she, "for he needs it. He
ought to have had Nellie Douglass. She's a match for him. Why
didn't you have her, John?"
With a face dark as night, he angrily requested Carrie "to mind her
own business," saying "he was fully competent to take charge of
himself, without the interference of either wife or sister."
"Oh, what if he should look and talk so to me!" thought Mabel,
shuddering as a dim foreboding of her sad future came over her.
'Lena who understood John Jr. better than any one else, saw that all
was not right. She knew how much he had loved Nellie; she believed
he loved her still; and why should he marry another? She could not
tell, and as he withheld his confidence from her, appearing unusually
moody and cross, she dared not approach him. At last, having an idea
of what she wanted, and willing to give her a chance, he one day,
when they were alone, abruptly asked her what she thought of his
"If you ask me what I think of Mabel," said she, "I answer that I
esteem her very highly, and the more I know her the better I love
her. Still, I never thought she would be your wife."
"Ah--indeed!--never thought she would, hey?" answered John, beginning
to grow crusty, and elevating his feet to the top of the mantel.
"You see now what _thought_ did; but what is your objection to her?"
"Nothing, nothing," returned 'Lena. "Mabel is amiable, gentle, and
confiding, and will try to be a good wife."
"What the deuce are you grumbling for, then?" interrupted John Jr.
"Do you want me yourself? If you do, just say the word, and it shall
be done! I'm bound to be married, and I'd sooner have you than
anybody else. Come, what do you say?"
'Lena smiled, while she disclaimed any intention toward her cousin,
who, resuming the position which in his excitement he had slightly
changed, continued: "I have always dealt fairly with you, 'Lena, and
now I tell you truly, I have no particular love for Mabel, although I
intend making her my wife, and heartily wish she was so now."
'Lena started, and clasping John's arm, exclaimed, "Marry Mabel and
not love her! You cannot be in earnest. You will not do her so
great a wrong--you shall not."
"I don't know how you'll help it, unless you meddle with what does
not concern you," said John. "I am doing her no wrong, I never told
her I loved her--never acted as though I did, and if she is content
to have me on such terms, it's nobody's business. She loves me half
to death, and if the old adage be true that love begets love, I shall
learn to love her, and when I do I'll let you know."
So saying, the young man shook down his pants, which had become
disarranged, and walked away, leaving 'Lena to wonder what course she
had better pursue. Once she resolved on telling Mabel all that had
passed between them, but the next moment convinced her that, as he
had said, she would be meddling, so she decided to say nothing,
silently hoping that affairs would turn out better than she feared.
It was Mabel's wish that 'Lena and Anna should be her bridesmaids,
Durward and Malcolm officiating as groomsmen, and as Mr. Bellmont was
away, she wrote to him requesting his attendance, but saying she had
not yet mentioned the subject to 'Lena. Painful as was the task of
being thus associated with 'Lena, Durward felt that to refuse might
occasion much remark, so he wrote to Mabel that "he would comply with
her request, provided Miss Rivers were willing."
"Of course she's willing," said Mabel to herself, at the same time
running with the letter to 'Lena, who, to her utter astonishment, not
only refused outright, but also declined giving any particular reason
for her doing so. "Carrie will suit him much better than I," said
she, but unfortunately, Carrie, who chanced to be present, half
hidden in the recess of a window, indignantly declined "going
Jack-at-a-pinch" with any one, so Mabel was obliged to content
herself with Anna and Mr. Everett.
But here a new difficulty arose, for Mrs. Livingstone declared that
the latter should not be invited, and Anna, in a fit of anger,
insisted that if _he_ were not good enough to be present, neither was
she, and she should accordingly remain in her own room. Poor Mabel
burst into tears, and when, a few moments afterward, John Jr.
appeared, asking what ailed her, she hid her face in his bosom and
sobbed like a child. Then, frightened at her own temerity, for he
gave her no answering caress, she lifted up her head, while with a
quizzical expression John Jr. said, "So-ho, Meb, seems to me you've
taken to crying on my jacket a little in advance. But what's the
In a few words Mabel told him how everything went wrong, how neither
'Lena, Carrie, nor Anna would be her bridesmaids, and how Anna
wouldn't see her married because Malcolm was not invited.
"I can manage that," said John Jr. "Mr. Everett _shall_ be invited,
so just shut up crying, for if there's anything I detest, it's a
woman's sniveling;" and he walked off thinking he had begun just as
he meant to hold out.
'Twas Mabel's wedding night, and in one of the upper rooms of Mr.
Livingstone's house she stood awaiting the summons to the parlor.
They had arrayed her for the bridal; Mrs. Livingstone, Carrie, 'Lena,
Anna, and the seamstress, all had had something to do with her
toilet, and now they had left her for a time with him who was so soon
to be her husband. She knew--for they had told her--she was looking
uncommonly well. Her dress, of pure white satin, was singularly
becoming; pearls were interwoven in the heavy braids of her raven
hair; the fleecy folds of the rich veil, which fell like a cloud
around her, swept the floor. In her eye there was an unusual sparkle
and on her cheek an unwonted bloom.
Still Mabel was not happy. There was a heavy pain at her heart--a
foreboding of coming evil--and many an anxious glance she cast toward
the stern, silent man, who, with careless tread, walked up and down
the room, utterly regardless of her presence, and apparently absorbed
in bitter reflections. Once only had she ventured to speak, and
then, in childlike simplicity, she had asked him "how she looked."
"Well enough," was his answer, as, without raising his eyes, he
continued his walk.
The tears gathered in Mabel's eyes--she could not help it; drop after
drop they came, falling upon the marble table, until John Jr., who
saw more than he pretended, came to her side, asking "why she wept."
Mabel was beginning to be terribly afraid of him, and for a moment
she hesitated, but at length, summoning all her courage, she wound
her arms about his neck, and in low, earnest tones said, "Tell me
truly, do you wish to marry me?"
"And suppose I do not?" he asked, with the same stony composure.
Stepping backward, Mabel stood proudly erect before him, and
answered, "Then would I die rather than wed you!"
There was something in her appearance and attitude peculiarly
attractive to John Jr. Never in his life had he felt so much
interested in her, and drawing her toward him and placing his arm
around her, he said, gently, "Be calm, little Meb, you are nervous
to-night. Of course I wish you to be my wife, else I had not asked
you. Are you satisfied?"
The joyous glance of the dark eyes lifted so confidingly to his, was
a sufficient answer, and as if conscious of the injustice he was
about to do her, John Jr. bent for an instant over her slight figure,
mentally resolving, that so far as in him lay he would be true to his
trust. There was a knock at the door, and Mrs. Livingstone herself
looked in, pale, anxious, and expectant. Mr. Douglass, who was among
the invited guests, had arrived, and _must_ have an interview with
John Jr. ere the ceremony. 'Twas in vain she attempted politely to
waive his request. He _would_ see him, and distracted with fear, she
had at last conducted him into the upper hall, and out upon an open
veranda, where in the moonlight he awaited the coming of the
bridegroom, who, with some curiosity, approached him, asking what he
"It may seem strange to you," said Mr. Douglass, "that I insist upon
seeing you now, when another time might do as well, but I believe in
having a fair understanding all round."
"Meddling old rascal!" exclaimed Mrs. Livingstone, who, of course,
was within hearing, bending her ears so as not to lose a word.
But in this she was thwarted, for drawing nearer to John Jr., Mr.
Douglass said, so low as to prevent her catching anything further,
save the sound of his voice:
"I do not accuse you of being at all mercenary, but such things have
been, and there has something come to my knowledge to-day, which I
deem it my duty to tell you, so that hereafter you can neither blame
me nor Mabel."
"What is it?" asked John Jr., and Mr. Douglass replied, "To be brief,
then, Mabel's large fortune is, with the exception of a few
thousands, of which I have charge, all swept away by the recent
failure of the Planters' Bank, in which it was invested. I heard of
it this morning, and determined on telling you, knowing that if you
loved her for herself, it would make no difference, while if you
loved her for her money, it were far better to stop here."
Nothing could have been further from John's thoughts than a desire
for Mabel's wealth, which, precious as it seemed in his mother's
eyes, was valueless to him, and after a moment's silence, in which he
was thinking what a rich disappointment it would be to his mother,
who, he knew, prized Mabel only for her money, he exclaimed, "Good,
I'm glad of it. I never sought Mabel's hand for what there was in
it, and I'm more ready to marry her now than ever. But," he added,
as a sudden impulse of good came over him, "She need not know it; it
would trouble her uselessly, and for the present we'll keep it from
John Jr. had always been a puzzle to Mr. Douglass, who by turns
censured and admired him, but now there was but one feeling in his
bosom toward him, and that was one of unbounded respect. With a warm
pressure of the hand he turned away, thinking, perchance, of his fair
young daughter, who, far away o'er the Atlantic waves, little dreamed
of the scene on which that summer moon was shining. As the
conference ended; Mrs. Livingstone, who had learned nothing, glided,
from her hiding-place, eagerly scanning her son's face to see if
there was aught to justify her fears. But there was nothing, and
with her heart beating at its accustomed pace, she descended the
stairs in time to meet Durward, who, having reached Woodlawn that
day, had not heard of 'Lena's decision.
"This way, Marster Bellmont--upstars is the gentleman's room," said
the servant in attendance, and ascending the stairs, Durward met with
Anna, asking her for her cousin.
"In there--go in," said Anna, pointing to a half-open door, and then
hurrying away to meet Malcolm, whose coming she had seen from the
Hesitatingly, Durward approached the chamber indicated, and as his
knock met with no response, he ventured at last to enter unannounced
into the presence of 'Lena, whom he had not met since that
well-remembered night. Tastefully attired for the wedding in a
simple white muslin, she sat upon a little stool with her face buried
in the cushions of the sofa. She had heard his voice in the lower
hall, and knowing she must soon meet him, she had for a moment
abandoned herself to the tumult of bitter thoughts, which came
sweeping over her in that trying hour. She was weeping--he knew that
by the trembling of her body--and for an instant everything was
Advancing softly toward her, he was about to lay his hand upon those
clustering curls which fell unheeded around her, when the thought
that from among them had been cut the hated tress which his mother
had cast into the flames, arrested his hand, and he was himself
again. Forcing down his emotion, he said, calmly, "Miss Rivers," and
starting quickly to her feet, 'Lena demanded proudly what he would
have, and why he was there.
"Pardon me," said he, as he marked her haughty bearing and glanced at
her dress, which was hardly in accordance with that of a bridesmaid;
"I supposed I was to be groomsman--am I mistaken?"
"So far as I am concerned you are, sir. I knew nothing of Mabel's
writing to you, or I should have prevented it, for after what has
occurred, you cannot deem me weak enough to lend myself to such an
And 'Lena walked out of the room, while Durward looked after her in
amazement, one moment admiring her spirit, and the next blaming Mabel
for not informing him how matters stood. "But there's no help for it
now," thought he, as he descended the stairs and made his way into
the parlor, whither 'Lena had preceded him.
And thus ended an interview of which 'Lena had thought so much,
hoping and praying that it might result in a reconciliation. But it
was all over now--the breach was wider than ever--with half-benumbed
faculties she leaned on the window, unconscious of the earnest desire
he felt to approach her, for there was about her a strange
fascination which it required all his power to resist.
When at last all was in readiness, a messenger was dispatched to John
Jr., who, without a word, offered his arm to Mabel, and descending
the broad staircase, they stood within the parlor in the spot which
had been assigned them. Once during the ceremony he raised his eyes,
encountering those of 'Lena, fixed upon him so reproachfully that
with a scowl he turned away. Mechanically he went through with his
part of the service, betraying no emotion whatever, until the solemn
words which made them one were uttered. Then, when it was over--when
he was bound to her forever--he seemed suddenly to awake from his
apathy and think of what he had done. Crowding around him, they came
with words of congratulation--all but 'Lena, who tarried behind, for
she had none to give. Wretched as she was herself, she pitied the
frail young bride, whose half-joyous, half-timid glances toward the
frigid bridegroom, showed that already was she sipping from the
bitter cup whose very dregs she was destined to drain.
In the recess of a window near to John Jr., Mr. Douglass and Durward
stood, speaking together of Nellie, and though John shrank from the
sound of her name, his hearing faculties seemed unusually sharpened,
and he lost not a word of what they were saying.
"So Nellie is coming home in the autumn, I am told," said Durward,
"and I am glad of it, for I miss her much. But what is it about Mr.
Wilbur's marriage. Wasn't it rather unexpected?"
"No, not very. Nellie knew before she went that he was engaged to
Miss Allen, but at his sister's request she kept it still. He found
her at a boarding-school in Montreal, several years ago."
"Will they remain in Europe?"
"For a time, at least, until Mary is better--but Nellie comes home
with some friends from New Haven, whom she met in Paris;" then in a
low tone Mr. Douglass added, "I almost dread the effect of this
marriage upon her, for I am positive she liked him better than anyone
The little white, blue-veined hand which rested on that of John Jr.,
was suddenly pressed so spasmodically, that Mabel looked up
inquiringly in the face which had no thought for her, for Mr.
Douglass's words had fallen upon him like a thunderbolt, crushing him
to the earth, and for a moment rendering him powerless. Instantly he
comprehended it all. He had deceived himself, and by his impetuous
haste lost all that he held most dear on earth. There was a cry of
faintness, a grasping at empty space to keep from falling, and then
forth into the open air they led the half-fainting man, followed by
his frightened bride, who tenderly bathed his damp, cold brow,
unmindful how he shrank from her, shuddering as he felt the touch of
her soft hand, and motioning her aside when she stooped to part from
his forehead the heavy locks of his hair.
That night, the pale starlight of another hemisphere kept watch over
a gentle girl, who 'neath the blue skies of sunny France, dreamed of
her distant home across the ocean wave; of the gray-haired man, who,
with every morning light and evening shade, blessed her as his child;
of another, whose image was ever present with her, whom from her
childhood she had loved, and whom neither time nor distance could
efface from her memory.
Later, and the silvery moon looked mournfully down upon the white,
haggard face and heavy bloodshot eye of him who counted each long,
dreary hour as it passed by, cursing the fate which had made him what
he was, and unjustly hardening his heart against his innocent
For a short time after their marriage, John Jr. treated Mabel with at
least a show of attention, but he was not one to act long as he did
not feel. Had Nellie been, indeed, the wife of another, he might in
time have learned to love Mabel as she deserved, but now her presence
only served to remind him of what he had lost, and at last he began
to shun her society, never seeming willing to be left with her alone,
and either repulsing or treating with indifference the many little
acts of kindness which her affectionate nature prompted. To all this
Mabel was not blind, and when once she began to suspect her true
position, it was easy for her to fancy slights where none were
Thus, ere she had been two months a wife, her life was one of
constant unhappiness, and, as a matter of course, her health, which
had been much improved, began to fail. Her old racking headaches
returned with renewed force, confining her for whole days to her
room, where she lay listening in vain for the footsteps which never
came, and tended only by 'Lena, who in proportion as the others
neglected her, clung to her more and more. The trip to Saratoga was
given up, John Jr. in the bitterness of his disappointment bitterly
refusing to go, and saying there was nothing sillier than for a
newly-married couple to go riding around the country, disgusting
sensible people with their fooleries. So with a burst of tears Mabel
yielded and her bridal tour extended no further than Frankfort,
whither her husband _did_ once accompany her, dining out even then
with an old schoolmate whom he chanced to meet, and almost forgetting
to call at Mr. Douglass's for Mabel when it was time to return home.
Erelong, too, another source of trouble arose, which shipwrecked
entirely the poor bride's happiness. By some means or other it at
last came to Mrs. Livingstone's knowledge that Mabel's fortune was
not only all gone, but that her son had known it in time to prevent
his marrying her. Owing to various losses her own property had for a
few years past been gradually diminishing, and when she found that
Mabel's fortune, which she leaned upon as an all-powerful prop, was
swept away, it was more than she could bear peaceably; and in a fit
of disappointed rage she assailed her son, reproaching him with
bringing disgrace upon the family by marrying a poor, homely, sickly
girl, who would be forever incurring expense without any means of
paying it! For once, however, she found her match, for in good round
terms John Jr. bade her "go to thunder," his favorite point of
destination for his particular friends, at the same time saying, "he
didn't care a dime for Mabel's money. It was you," said he, "who
kept your eye on that, aiding and abetting the match, and now that
you are disappointed, I'm heartily glad of it."
"But who is going to pay for her board," asked Mrs. Livingstone.
"You've no means of earning it, and I hope you don't intend to sponge
out of me, for I think I've enough paupers on my hands already!"
"_Board_!" roared John Jr. in a towering passion. "While you thought
her rich, you gave no heed to board or anything else; and since she
has become poor, I do not think her appetite greatly increased. You
taunt me, too, with having no means of earning my own living. Whose
fault is it?--tell me that. Haven't you always opposed my having a
profession? Didn't you _pet_ and _baby_ 'Johnny' when a boy, keeping
him always at your apron strings, and now that he's a man, he's not
to be turned adrift. No, madam, I shall stay, and Mabel, too, just
as long as I please."
Gaining no satisfaction from him, Mrs. Livingstone turned her battery
upon poor Mabel, treating her with shameful neglect, intimating that
she was in the way; that the house was full, and that she never
supposed John was going to settle down at home for her to support; he
was big enough to look after himself, and if he chose to marry a wife
who had nothing, why let them go to work, as other folks did.
Mabel listened in perfect amazement, never dreaming what was meant,
for John Jr. had carefully kept from her a knowledge of her loss,
requesting his mother to do the same in such decided terms, that,
hint as strongly as she pleased, she dared not tell the whole, for
fear of the storm which was sure to follow. All this was not, of
course, calculated to add to Mabel's comfort, and day by day she grew
more and more unhappy, generously keeping to herself, however, the
treatment which she received from Mrs. Livingstone.
"He will only dislike me the more if I complain to him of his
mother," thought she, so the secret was kept, though she could not
always repress the tears which would start when she thought how
wretched she was.
We believe we have said elsewhere, that if there was anything
particularly annoying to John Jr., it was a sick or crying woman, and
now, when he so often found Mabel indisposed or weeping, he grew more
morose and fault-finding, sometimes wantonly accusing her of trying
to provoke him, when, in fact, she had used every means in her power
to conciliate him. Again, conscience-smitten, he would lay her
aching head upon his bosom, and tenderly bathing her throbbing
temples, would soothe her into a quiet sleep, from which she always
awoke refreshed, and in her heart forgiving him for all he had made
her suffer. At such times, John would resolve never again to treat
her unkindly, but alas! his resolutions were too easily broken. Had
he married Nellie, a more faithful, affectionate husband there could
not have been. But now it was different. A withering blight had
fallen upon his earthly prospects, and forgetting that he alone was
to blame, he unjustly laid the fault upon his innocent wife, who, as
far as she was able, loved him as deeply as Nellie herself could have
One morning about the first of September, John Jr. received a note,
informing him that several of his young associates were going on a
three days' hunting excursion, in which they wished him to join. In
the large easy-chair, just before him, sat Mabel, her head supported
by pillows and saturated with camphor, while around her eyes were the
dark rings which usually accompanied her headaches. Involuntarily
John Jr. glanced toward her. Had it been Nellie, all the pleasures
of the world could not have induced him to leave her, but Mabel was
altogether another person, and more for the sake of seeing what she
would say, than from any real intention of going, he read the note
aloud; then carelessly throwing it aside, he said, "Ah, yes, I'll go.
It'll be rare fun camping out these moonlight nights."
Much as she feared him, Mabel could not bear to have him out of her
sight, and now, at the first intimation of his leaving her, her lip
began to tremble, while tears filled her eyes and dropped upon her
cheeks. This was enough, and mentally styling her "a perfect cry
baby," he resolved to go at all hazards.
"I don't think you ought to leave Mabel, she feels so badly," said
Anna, who was present.
"I want to know if little Anna's got so she can dictate me, too,"
answered John, imitating her voice, and adding, that "he reckoned
Mabel would get over her bad feelings quite as well without him as
More for the sake of opposition than because she really cared,
Carrie, too, chimed in, saying that "he was a pretty specimen of a
three months' husband," and asking "how he ever expected to answer
for all of Mabel's tears and headaches."
"Hang her tears and headaches," said he, beginning to grow angry.
"She can get one up to order any time, and for my part, I am getting
heartily tired of the sound of aches and pains."
"Please _don't_ talk so," said Mabel, pressing her hands upon her
aching head, while 'Lena sternly exclaimed, "Shame on you, John
Livingstone. I am surprised at you, for I did suppose you had some
little feeling left."
"Miss Rivers can be very eloquent when she chooses, but I am happy to
say it is entirely lost on me," said John, leaving the room and
shutting the door with a bang, which made every one of Mabel's nerves
"What a perfect brute," said Carrie, while 'Lena and Anna drew nearer
to Mabel, the one telling her "she would not care," and the other
silently pressing the little hand which instinctively sought hers, as
if sure of finding sympathy.
At this moment Mrs. Livingstone came in, and immediately Carrie gave
a detailed account of her brother's conduct, at the same time
referring her mother for proof to Mabel's red eyes and swollen face.
"I never interfere between husband and wife," said Mrs. Livingstone
coolly, "but as a friend, I will give Mabel a bit of advice. Without
being at all personal, I would say that few women have beauty enough
to afford to impair it by eternally crying, while fewer men have
patience enough to bear with a woman who is forever whining and
complaining, first of this and then of that. I don't suppose that
John is so much worse than other people, and I think he bears up
wonderfully, considering his disappointment."
Here the lady flounced out of the room, leaving the girls to stare at
each other in silence, wondering what she meant. Since her marriage,
Mabel had occupied the parlor chamber, which connected with a cozy
little bedroom and dressing-room adjoining. These had at the time
been fitted up and furnished in a style which Mrs. Livingstone
thought worthy of Mabel's wealth, but now that she was poor, the case
was altered, and she had long contemplated removing her to more
inferior quarters. "She wasn't going to give her the very best room
in the house. No, indeed, she wasn't--wearing out the carpets,
soiling the furniture, and keeping everything topsy-turvy."
She understood John Jr. well enough to know that it would not do to
approach him on the subject, so she waited, determining to carry out
her plans the very first time he should be absent, thinking when it
was once done, he would submit quietly. On hearing that he had gone
off on a hunting excursion, she thought, "Now is my time," and
summoning to her assistance three or four servants, she removed
everything belonging to John Jr. and Mabel, to the small and not
remarkably convenient room which the former had occupied previous to
"What are you about?" asked Anna, who chanced to pass by and looked
"About my business," answered Mrs. Livingstone. I'm not going to
have my best things all worn out, and if this was once good enough
for John to sleep in, it is now."
"But will Mabel like it?" asked Anna, a little suspicious that her
sister-in-law's rights were being infringed.
"Nobody cares whether she is pleased or not," said Mrs. Livingstone.
"If she don't like it, all she has to do is to go away."
"Lasted jest about as long as I thought 'twood," said Aunt Milly,
when she heard what was going on. "Ile and crab-apple vinegar won't
mix, nohow, and if before the year's up old miss don't worry the life
out of that poor little sickly critter, that looks now like a picked
chicken, my name ain't Milly Livingstone."
The other negroes agreed with her. Constantly associated with the
family, they saw things as they were, and while Mrs. Livingstone's
conduct was universally condemned, Mabel was a general favorite.
After Mrs. Livingstone had left the room, Milly, with one or two
others, stole up to reconnoiter.
"Now I 'clar' for't," said Milly, "if here ain't Marster John's
bootjack, fish-line, and box of tobacky, right out in far sight, and
Miss Mabel comin' in here to sleep. 'Pears like some white folks
hain't no idee of what 'longs to good manners. Here, Corind, put the
jack in thar, the fish-line thar, the backy thar, and heave that ar
other thrash out o'door," pointing to some geological specimens which
from time to time John Jr. had gathered, and which his mother had not
thought proper to molest.
Corinda obeyed, and then Aunt Milly, who really possessed good taste,
began to make some alterations in the arrangement of the furniture,
and under her supervision the room began to present a more cheerful
and inviting aspect.
"Get out with yer old airthen candlestick," said she, turning up her
broad nose at the said article, which stood upon the stand. "What's
them tall frosted ones in the parlor chamber for, if 'tain't to use.
Go, Corind, and fetch 'em."
But Corinda did not dare, and Aunt Milly went herself, taking the
precaution to bring them in the tongs, so that in the _denouement_
she could stoutly deny having even "tached 'em, or even had 'em in
her hands!" (So much for a subterfuge, where there is no moral
When Mabel heard of the change, she seemed for a moment stupefied.
Had she been consulted, had Mrs. Livingstone frankly stated her
reasons for wishing her to take another room, she would have
consented willingly, but to be thus summarily removed without a
shadow of warning, hardly came up to her ideas of justice. Still,
there was no help for it, and that night the bride of three months
watered her lone pillow with tears, never once closing her heavy
eyelids in sleep until the dim morning light came in through the open
window, and the tread of the negroes' feet was heard in the yard
below. Then, for many hours, the weary girl slumbered on,
unconscious of the ill-natured remarks which her non-appearance was
eliciting from Mrs. Livingstone, who said "it was strange what airs
some people would put on; perhaps Mistress Mabel fancied her
breakfast would be sent to her room, or kept warm for her until such
time as she chose to appear, but she'd find herself mistaken, for the
servants had enough to do without waiting upon her, and if she
couldn't come up to breakfast, why, she must wait until dinner time."
'Lena and Milly, however, thought differently. Softly had the latter
stolen up to her cousin's room, gazing pityingly upon the pale, worn
face, whose grieved, mournful expression told of sorrow which had
come all too soon.
"Let her sleep; it will do her good," said 'Lena, adjusting the
bed-clothes, and dropping the curtain so that the sunlight should not
disturb her, she left the chamber.
An hour after, on entering the kitchen, she found Aunt Milly
preparing a rich cream toast, which, with a cup of fragrant black
tea, were to be slyly conveyed to Mabel, who was now awake.
"Reckon thar don't nobody starve as long as this nigger rules the
roost," said Milly, wiping one of the silver tea-spoons with a corner
of her apron, and then placing it in the cup destined for Mabel, who,
not having seen her breakfast prepared, relished it highly, thinking
the world was not, after all, so dark and dreary, for there were yet
a few left who cared for her.
Her headache of the day before still remained, and 'Lena suggested
that she should stay in her room, saying that she would herself see
that every necessary attention was paid her. This she could the more
readily do, as Mrs. Livingstone had gone to Versailles with her
husband. That afternoon, as Mabel lay watching the drifting clouds
as they passed and repassed before the window, her ear suddenly
caught the sound of horses' feet. Nearer and nearer they came, until
with a cry of delight she hid her face in the pillows, weeping for
very joy--for John Jr. had come home! She could not be mistaken, and
if there was any lingering doubt, it was soon lost in certainty, for
she heard his voice in the hall below, his footsteps on the stairs.
He was coming, an unusual thing, to see her first.
But how did he know she was there, in his old room? He did not know
it; he was only coming to put his rifle in its accustomed place, and
on seeing the chamber filled with the various paraphernalia of a
woman's toilet, he started, with the exclamation, "What the deuce! I
reckon I've got into the wrong pew," and was going away, when Mabel
called him back. "Meb, you here?" said he. "_You_ in this little
tucked-up hole, that I always thought too small for me and my traps!
What does it mean?"
Mabel had carefully studied the tones of her husband's voice, and
knowing from the one he now assumed that he was not displeased with
her, the sense of injustice done her by his mother burst out, and
throwing her arms around his neck, she told him everything connected
with her removal, asking what his mother meant by saying, "she should
never get anything for their board," and begging him "to take her
away where they could live alone and be happy."
Since he had left her, John Jr. had _thought_ a great deal, the
result of which was, that he determined on returning home much sooner
than he at first intended, promising himself to treat Mabel decently,
and if possible win back the respect of 'Lena, which he knew he had
lost. To his companions, who urged him to remain, he replied that
"he had left his wife sick, and he could not stay longer."
It cost him a great effort to say "my wife," for never before had he
so called her, but he felt better the moment he had done so, and
bidding his young friends adieu, he started for home with the same
impetuous speed which usually characterized his riding. He had fully
expected to meet Mabel in the parlor, and was even revolving in his
own mind the prospect of kissing her, provided 'Lena were present.
"That'll prove to her," thought he, "that I am not the hardened
wretch she thinks I am; so I'll do it, if Meb doesn't happen to be
all bound up in camphor and aromatic vinegar, which I can't endure,
Full of this resolution he had hastened home, going first to his old
room, where he had come so unexpectedly upon Mabel that for a moment
he scarcely knew what to say. By the time, however, that she had
finished her story, his mind was pretty well made up.
"And so it's mother's doings, hey?" said he, violently pulling the
bell-rope, and then walking up and down the room until Corinda
appeared in answer to his summons.
"How many blacks are there in the kitchen?" he asked.
"Six or seven, besides Aunt Polly," answered Corinda.
"Very well. Tell every man of them to come up here, quick."
Full of wonder Corinda departed, carrying the intelligence, and
adding that "Marster John looked mighty black in the face", and she
reckoned some on 'em would catch it, at the same time, for fear of
what might happen, secretly conveying back to the safe the piece of
cake which, in her mistress' absence, she had stolen! Aunt Milly's
first thought was of the frosted candlesticks, and by way of
impressing upon Corinda a sense of what she might expect if in any
way she implicated her, she gave her a cuff in advance, bidding her
"be keerful how she blabbed", then heading the sable group, she
repaired to the chamber, where John Jr. was awaiting them.
Advancing toward them, as they appeared in the doorway, he said,
"Take hold here, every one of you, and move these things back where
they came from."
"Don't, oh don't," entreated Mabel, but laying his hand over her
mouth, John Jr. bade her keep still, at the same time ordering the
negroes "to be quick."
At first the younger portion of the blacks stood speechless, but Aunt
Milly, comprehending the whole at once, and feeling glad that her
mistress had her match in her son, set to work with a right good
will, and when about dusk Mrs. Livingstone came home, she was
astonished at seeing a light in the parlor chamber, while
occasionally she could discern the outline of a form moving before
the window. What could it mean? Perhaps they had company, and
springing from the carriage she hastened into the house, meeting
'Lena in the hall, and eagerly asking who was in the front chamber.
"I believe," said 'Lena, "that my cousin is not pleased with the
change, and has gone back to the front room."
"The impudent thing!" exclaimed Mrs. Livingstone, ignorant of her
son's return, and as a matter of course attributing the whole to
Darting up the stairs, she advanced toward the chamber and pushing
open the door stood face to face with John Jr., who, with hands
crammed in his pockets and legs crossed, was leaning against the
mantel, waiting and ready for whatever might occur.
"John Livingstone!" she gasped in her surprise.
"That's my name," he returned, quietly enjoying her look of amazement.
"What do you mean?" she continued.
"Mean what I say," was his provoking answer.
"What have you been about?" was her next question, to which he
replied, "Your eyesight is not deficient--you can see for yourself."
Gaining no satisfaction from him, Mrs. Livingstone now turned upon
Mabel, abusing her until John Jr. sternly commanded her to desist,
bidding her "confine her remarks to himself, and let his wife alone,
as she was not in the least to blame."
"Your wife!" repeated Mrs. Livingstone--"very affectionate you've
grown, all at once. Perhaps you've forgotten that you married her to
spite Nellie, who you then believed was the bride of Mr. Wilbur, but
you surely remember how you fainted when you accidentally learned
A cry from Mabel, who fell back, fainting, among the pillows,
prevented Mrs. Livingstone from any further remarks, and satisfied
with the result of her visit, she walked away, while John Jr.,
springing to the bedside, bore his young wife to the open window,
hoping the cool night air would revive her. But she lay so pale and
motionless in his arms, her head resting so heavily upon his
shoulder, that with a terrible foreboding he laid her back upon the
bed, and rushing to the door, shouted loudly, "Help--somebody--come
quick--Mabel is dead, I know she is."
'Lena heard the cry and hastened to the rescue, starting back when
she saw the marble whiteness of Mabel's face.
"I didn't kill her, 'Lena. God knows I didn't. Poor little Meb,"
said John Jr., quailing beneath 'Lena's rebuking glance, and bending
anxiously over the slight form which looked so much like death.
But Mabel was not dead. 'Lena knew it by the faint fluttering of her
heart, and an application of the usual remedies sufficed, at last, to
restore her to consciousness. With a long-drawn sigh her eyes
unclosed, and looking earnestly in 'Lena's face, she said, "Was it a
dream, 'Lena? Tell me, was it all a dream?"--then, as she observed
her husband, she added, shudderingly, "No, no, not a dream. I
remember it all now. And I wish I was dead."
Again 'Lena's rebuking glance went over to John Jr., who, advancing
nearer to Mabel, gently laid his hand upon her white brow, saying,
softly, "Poor, poor Meb."
There was genuine pity in the tones of his voice, and while the hot
tears gushed forth, the sick girl murmured, "Forgive me, John, I
couldn't help it. I didn't know it, and now, if you say so, I'll go
away, alone--where you'll never see me again."
She comprehended it all. Her mother-in-law had rudely torn away the
veil, and she saw why she was there--knew why he had sought her for
his wife--understood all his coldness and neglect; but she had no
word of reproach for him, her husband, and from the depths of her
crushed heart she forgave him, commiserating him as the greater
"May be I shall die," she whispered, "and then----"
She did not finish the sentence, neither was it necessary, for John
Jr. understood what she meant, and with his conscience smiting him as
it did, he felt half inclined to declare, with his usual
impulsiveness, that it should never be; but the rash promise was not
made, and it was far better that it should not be.
Mabel's nerves had received too great a shock to rally immediately, and
as day after day went by, she still kept her room, notwithstanding the
very pointed hints of her mother-in-law that "she was making believe
for the sake of sympathy." Why didn't she get up and go out
doors--anybody would be sick to be flat on their back day in and day
out; or did she think she was spiting her by showing what muss she
could keep the "best chamber" in if she chose?
This last was undoubtedly the grand secret of Mrs. Livingstone's
dissatisfaction. Foiled in her efforts to dislodge them, she would not
yield without an attempt at making Mabel, at least, as uncomfortable in
mind as possible. Accordingly, almost every day when her son was not
present, she conveyed from the room some nice article of furniture,
substituting in its place one of inferior quality, which was quite good
enough, she thought, for a penniless bride.
"'Pears like ole miss goin' to make a clean finish of her dis time,"
said Aunt Milly, who watched her mistress' daily depredations. "Ole
Sam done got title deed of her, sure enough. Ki! won't she ketch it in
t'other world, when he done show her his cloven foot, and won't she
holler for old Milly to fotch her a drink of water? not particular
then--drink out of the bucket, gourd-shell, or anything; but dis
nigger'll 'sign her post in de parlor afore she'll go."
"Why, Milly," said 'Lena, who overheard this colloquy, "don't you know
it's wrong to indulge in such wicked thoughts?"
"Bless you, child," returned the old negress, "she 'sarves 'em all for
treatin' that poor, dear lamb so. I'd 'nihilate her if I's Miss Mabel."
"No, no, Milly," said Aunt Polly, who was present. "You must heap
coals of fire on her head."
"Yes, yes, that's it--she orto have 'em," quickly responded Milly,
thinking Polly's method of revenge the very best in the world, provided
the coals were "bilin' hot," and with this reflection she started
upstairs, with a bowl of nice, warm gruel she had been preparing for
Several times each day Grandma Nichols visited Mabel's room, always
prescribing some new tea of herbs, whose healing qualities were
wonderful, having effected cures in every member of Nancy Scovandyke's
family, that lady herself, as a matter of course, being first included.
And Aunt Milly, with the faithfulness characteristic of her race, would
seek out each new herb, uniting with it her own simple prayer that it
might have the desired effect. But all in vain, for every day Mabel
became weaker, while her dark eyes grew larger and brighter, anon
lighting up with joy as she heard her husband's footsteps in the hall,
and again filling with tears as she glanced timidly into his face, and
thought of the dread reality.
"Maybe I shall die," was more than once murmured in her sleep, and John
Jr., as often as he heard those words, would press her burning hands,
and mentally reply, "Poor little Meb."
And all this time no one thought to call a physician, until Mr.
Livingstone himself at last suggested it. At first he had felt no
interest whatever in his daughter-in-law, but with him force of habit
was everything, and when she no longer came among them, he missed
her--missed her languid steps upon the stairs and her childish voice in
the parlor. At last it one day occurred to him to visit her. She was
sleeping when he entered the room, but he could see there had been a
fearful change since last he looked upon her, and without a word
concerning his intentions, he walked to the kitchen, ordering one of
his servants to start forthwith for the physician, whose residence was
a few miles distant.
Mrs. Livingstone was in the front parlor when he returned, in company
with Doctor Gordon, and immediately her avaricious spirit asked who
would pay the bill, and why was he sent for. Mabel did not need
him--she was only babyish and spleeny--and so she told the physician,
who, however, did not agree with her. He did not say that Mabel would
die, but he thought so, for his experienced eye saw in her infallible
signs of the disease which had stricken down both her parents, and to
which, from her birth, she had been a prey. Mabel guessed as much from
his manner, and when again he visited her, she asked him plainly what
She was young--a bride--surrounded apparently by everything which could
make her happy, and the physician hesitated, answering her evasively,
until she said, "Do not fear to tell me truly, for I want to die. Oh,
I long to die," she continued, passionately clasping her thin white
"That is an unusual wish in one so young," answered the physician, "but
to be plain with you, Mrs. Livingstone, I think consumption too deeply
seated to admit of your recovery. You may be better, but never well.
Your disease is hereditary, and has been coming on too long."
"It is well," was Mabel's only answer, as she turned wearily upon her
side and hid her face in the pillows.
For a long time she lay there, thinking, weeping, and thinking again,
of the noisome grave through which she must pass, and from which she
instinctively shrank, it was so dark, so cold, and dreary. But Mabel
had trusted in One who she knew would go with her down into the lone
valley--whose arm she felt would uphold her as she crossed the dark,
rolling stream of death; and as if her frail bark were already safely
moored upon the shores of the eternal river, she looked back dreamily
upon the world she had left, and as she saw what she felt would surely
be, she again murmured through her tears, "It is well."
That night, when John Jr. came up to his room, he appeared somewhat
moody and cross, barely speaking to Mabel, and then walking up and down
the room with the heavy tread which always indicated a storm within.
He had that day been to Frankfort, hearing that Nellie was really
coming home very soon--very possibly she was now on her way. Of course
she would visit Mabel, when she heard she was sick, and of course he
must meet her face to face, must stand with her at the bedside of _his
wife_ and that wife Mabel. In his heart he did not accuse the latter
of feigning her illness, but he wished she would get well faster, so
that Nellie need not feel obliged to visit her. She could at least
make an effort--a great deal depended upon that--and she had now been
confined to her room three or four weeks.
Thus he reflected as he walked, and at last his thoughts formed
themselves into words. Stopping short at the foot of the bed, he said
abruptly and without looking her in the face, "How do you feel tonight?"
The stifled cough which Mabel tried to suppress because it was
offensive to him, brought a scowl to his forehead, and in imagination
he anticipated her answer, "I do not think I am any better."
"And I don't believe you try to be," sprang to his lips, but its
utterance was prevented by a glance at her face, which by the
flickering lamplight looked whiter than ever.
"Nellie is coming home in a few weeks," he said at length, with his
'Twas the first time Mabel had heard that name since the night when her
mother-in-law had rang it in her ears, and now she started so quickly,
that the offending cough could not be forced back, and the coughing fit
which followed was so violent that John Jr., as he held the bowl to her
quivering lips, saw that what she had raised was streaked with blood.
But he was unused to sickness, and he gave it no farther thought,
resuming the conversation as soon as she became quiet.
"To be plain, Meb," said he, "I want you to hurry and get well before
Nellie comes--for if you are sick she'll feel in duty bound to visit
you, and I'd rather face a loaded cannon than her."
Mabel was too much exhausted to answer immediately, and she lay so long
with her eyes closed that John Jr., growing impatient, said, "Are you
"No, no," said she, at the same time requesting him to take the vacant
chair by her side, as she wished to talk with him.
John Jr. hated to be talked to, particularly by her, for he felt that
she had much cause to reproach him; but she did not, and as she
proceeded, his heart melted toward her in a manner which he had never
thought possible. Very gently she spoke of her approaching end as sure.
"You ask me to make haste and be well," said she, "but it cannot be. I
shall never go out into the bright sunshine again, never join you in
the parlor below, and before the cold winds of winter are blowing, I
shall be dead. I hope I shall live until Nellie comes, for I must see
her, I must make it right between her and you. I must tell her to
forgive you for marrying me when you loved only her; and she will
listen--she won't refuse me, and when I am gone you'll be happy
John Jr. did not speak, but the little hand which nervously moved
toward him was met more than half-way, and thus strengthened, Mabel
continued: "You must sometimes think and speak of Mabel when she is
dead. I do not ask you to call me wife. I do not wish it, but you
must forget how wretched I have made you, for oh, I did not mean it,
and had I sooner known what I do now, I would have died ere I had
caused you one pang of sorrow."
Afterward, when it was too late, John Jr. would have given worlds to
recall that moment, that he might tell the broken-hearted girl how
bitterly he, too, repented of all the wrong he had done her; but he did
not say so then--he could only listen, while he mentally resolved that
if Mabel were indeed about to die, he would make the remainder of her
short life happy, and thus atone, as far as possible, for the past.
But alas for John Jr., his resolutions were easily broken, and as days
and weeks went by, and there was no perceptible change in her, he grew
weary of well-doing, absenting himself whole days from the sick-room,
and at night rather unwillingly resuming his post as watcher, for Mabel
would have no one else.
Since Mabel's illness he had occupied the little room adjoining hers,
and often when in the still night he lay awake, watching the shadow
which the lamp cast upon the wall, and thinking of her for whom the
light was constantly kept burning, his conscience would smite him
terribly, and rising up, he would steal softly to her bedside to see if
she were sleeping quietly. But anon he grew weary of this, too; the
shadow on the wall troubled him, it kept him awake; it was a continual
reproach, and he must be rid of it, somehow. He tried the experiment
of closing his door, but Mabel knew the moment he attempted it, and he
could not refuse her when she asked him to leave it open.
John Jr. grew restless, fidgety, and nervous. Why need the lamp be
kept burning? He could light it when necessary; or why need he sleep
there, when some one else would do as well? He thought of 'Lena--she
was just the one, and the next day he would speak to her. To his great
joy she consented to relieve him awhile, provided Mabel were willing;
but she was not, and John Jr. was forced to submit. He was not
accustomed to restraint, and every night matters grew worse and worse.
The shadow annoyed him exceedingly. If he slept, he dreamed that it
kept a glimmering watch over him, and when he awoke, he, in turn,
watched over that, until the misty day-light came to dissipate the
About this time several families from Frankfort started for New
Orleans, where they were wont to spend the winter, and irresistibly,
John Jr. became possessed of a desire to visit that city, too. Mabel
would undoubtedly live until spring, now that the trying part of autumn
was past and there could be no harm in his leaving her for awhile, when
he so much needed rest. Accordingly, 'Lena was one day surprised by
his announcing his intended trip.
"But you cannot be in earnest," she said; "you surely will not leave
"And why not?" he asked. "She doesn't grow any worse, and won't until
spring, and this close confinement is absolutely killing me! Why, I've
lost six pounds in six months, and you'll see to her, I know you will.
You're a good girl, and I like you, if I did get angry with you, weeks
ago when I went a hunting."
'Lena knew he ought not to go, and she tried hard to convince him of
the fact, telling him how much pleasure she had felt in observing his
improved manner toward Mabel, and that he must not spoil it now.
"It's no use talking," said he, "I'm bent on going somewhere. I've
tried to be good, I know, but the fact is, I can't stay _put_. It
isn't my nature. I shan't tell Meb till just before I start, for I
"And suppose she dies while you are gone?" asked 'Lena.
John was beginning to grow impatient, for he knew he was wrong, and
rather tartly he answered, as he left the room, "Give her a decent
burial, and present the bill to mother!"
"The next morning, as 'Lena sat alone with Mabel, John Jr. entered,
dressed and ready for his journey. But he found it harder telling his
wife than he had anticipated. She looked unusually pale this morning.
The sallowness of her complexion was all gone, and on either cheek
there burned a round, bright spot. 'Lena had just been arranging her
thick, glossy hair, and now, wholly exhausted, she reclined upon her
pillows, while her large black eyes, unnaturally bright, sparkled with
joy at the sight of her husband. But they quickly filled with tears
when told that he was going away, and had come to say good-bye.
"It's only to New Orleans and back," he said, as he saw her changing
face. "I shan't be gone long, and 'Lena will take care of you a heap
better than I can."
"It isn't that," answered Mabel, wiping her tears away. "Don't go,
John. Wait a little while. I'm sure it won't be long."
"You are nervous," said he, playfully lapping her white cheek. "You're
not going to die. You'll live to be grandmother yet, who knows? But I
must be off or lose the train. Good bye, little Meb," grasping her
hand, "Good-bye, 'Lena. I'll bring you both something nice--good-bye."
When she saw that he was going, Mabel asked him to come back to her
bedside just for one moment. He could not refuse, and winding her
long, emaciated arms around his neck, she whispered, "Kiss me once
before you go. I shall never ask it again, and 'twill make me happier
when you are gone."
"A dozen times, if you like," said he, giving her the only husband's
kiss she had ever received.
For a moment longer she detained him, while she prayed silently for
heaven's blessing on his wayward head, and then releasing him, she bade
him go. Had he known of all that was to follow, he would not have left
her, but he believed as he said, that she would survive the winter, and
with one more kiss upon her brow, where the perspiration was standing
thickly, he departed. The window of Mabel's room commanded a view of
the turnpike, and when the sound of horses' feet was heard on the lawn,
she requested 'Lena to lead her to the window, where she stood watching
him until a turn in the road hid him from her sight.
"'Tis the last time," said she, "and he will never know how much this
parting cost me."
That night, as they were alone in the gathering twilight, Mabel said,
"If I die before Nellie comes I want you to tell her how it all
happened, and that she must forgive him, for he was not to blame."
"I do not understand you," said 'Lena, and then, in broken sentences,
Mabel told what her mother-in-law had said, and how terribly John was
deceived. "Of course he couldn't love me after that," said she, "and
it's right that I should die. He and Nellie were made for each other,
and if the inhabitants of heaven are allowed to watch over those they
loved on earth, I will ask to be always near them. You will tell her,
'Lena promised, adding that she thought Mabel would see Nellie herself
as she was to sail from Liverpool the 20th, and a few days proved her
conjecture correct. Entering Mabel's room one morning about a week
after John's departure, she brought the glad news that Nellie had
returned, and would be with them to-morrow.
The next day Nellie came, but she, too, was changed. The roundness of
her form and face was gone; the rose had faded from her cheek, and her
footsteps were no longer light and bounding as of old. She knew of
John Jr.'s absence or she would not have come, for she could not meet
him face to face. She had heard, too, of his treatment of Mabel, and
while she felt indignant toward him, she freely forgave his innocent
wife, who she felt had been more sinned against than sinning.
With a faint cry Mabel started from her pillow, and burying her face on
Nellie's neck, wept like a child. "You do not hate me," she said at
last, "or you would not have come so soon."
"Hate you?--no," answered Nellie. "I have no cause for hating _you_."
"And you will stay with me until I die--until he comes home--and
forgive him, too," Mabel continued.
"I can promise the first, but the latter is harder," said Nellie, her
cheeks burning with anger as she gazed on the wreck before her.
"But you must, you will," exclaimed Mabel, rapidly telling all she
knew; then falling back upon the pillow, she added, "You'll forgive him
As time passed on, Mabel grew weaker and weaker, clinging closer to
Nellie as she felt the dark shadow of death creeping gradually over her.
"If he'd only come," she would say, "and I could place your hand in his
before I died."
But it was not to be. Day after day John Jr. lingered, dreading to
return, for he knew Nellie was there, and he could not meet her, he
thought, at the bedside of Mabel. So he tarried until a letter from
'Lena, which said that Mabel would die, decided him, and rather
reluctantly he started homeward. Meantime Mabel, who knew nothing of
her loss, conceived the generous idea of willing all her possessions to
her recreant husband.
"Perhaps he'll think more kindly of me," said she to his father, to
whom she first communicated her plan, and Mr. Livingstone felt that he
could not undeceive her.
Accordingly, a lawyer was summoned from Frankfort, and the will duly
drawn up, signed, sealed, and delivered into the hands of Mr.
Livingstone, whose wife, with a mocking laugh, bade him "guard it
carefully, it was so valuable."
"It shows her goodness of heart, at least," said he, and possibly Mrs.
Livingstone thought so, too, for from that time her manner softened
greatly toward her daughter-in-law.
* * * * * *
It was midnight at Maple grove. On the table, in its accustomed place,
the lamp was burning dimly, casting the shadow upon the wall, whilst
over the whole room a darker shadow was brooding. The window was open,
and the cool night air came softly in, lifting the masses of raven hair
from off the pale brow of the dying. Tenderly above her Nellie and
'Lena were bending. They had watched by her many a night, and now she
asked them not to leave her, not to disturb a single one--she would
rather die alone.
The sound of horses' hoofs rang out on the still air, but she did not
heed it. Nearer and nearer it came, over the lawn, up the graveled
walk, through the yard, and Nellie's face blanched to an unnatural
whiteness as she thought who that midnight-rider was. Arrived in
Frankfort only an hour before, he had hastened forward, impelled by a
something he could not resist. From afar he had caught the glimmering
light, and he felt he was not too late. He knew how to enter the
house, and on through the wide hall and up the broad staircase he came,
until he stood in the chamber, where before him another guest had
entered, whose name was Death!
Face to face he stood with Nellie Douglass, and between them lay _his_
wife--_her_ rival--the white hands folded meekly upon her bosom, and
the pale lips just as they had breathed a prayer for him.
"Mabel! She is dead!" was all he uttered, and falling upon his knees,
he buried his face in the pillow, while half scornfully, half
pityingly, Nellie gazed upon him.
There was much of bitterness in her heart toward him, not for the wrong
he had done her, but for the sake of the young girl, now passed forever
away. 'Lena felt differently. His silent grief conquered all
resentment, and going to his side, she told him how peacefully Mabel
had died--how to the last she had loved and remembered him, praying
that he might be happy when she was gone,
"Poor little Meb, she deserved a better fate," was all he said, as he
continued his kneeling posture, until the family and servants, whom
Nellie had summoned, came crowding round, the cries of the latter
grating on the ear, and seeming sadly out of place for her whose short
life had been so dreary, and who had welcomed death as a release from
all her pain.
It was Mrs. Livingstone's wish that Mabel should be arrayed in her
bridal robes, but with a shudder at the idle mockery, John Jr.
answered, "No," and in a plain white muslin, her shining hair arrayed
as she was wont to wear it, they placed her in her coffin, and on a
sunny slope where the golden sunlight and the pale moonbeams latest
fell, and where in spring the bright green grass and the sweet wild
flowers are earliest seen, laid her down to steep.
That night, when all around was still, John Jr. lay musing sadly of